Interested parties please apply to the United States Department of Justice.
Investment banks are increasingly assigning contracts for mortgage servicing to "specialty" servicers, which are businesses which exist for the purpose of servicing mortgages. In basic and simple terms, a mortgage servicer is a party which stands between the mortgagor-borrower and the mortgagee-lender.
Borrowers have a lot more contact with the current servicer of their mortgage than they will ever have with the lender or the lender's current stand-in. The servicer collects the monthly mortgage payments, applies proceeds from escrow toward taxes and insurance, force-places insurance at the borrower's expense and on the lender's behalf, and initiates foreclosure against the borrower on behalf of the lender.
The spark that set off the so-called National Mortgage Settlement, was certain attention-getting conduct of the 5 investment banks which were released. The conduct which drew national attention originally was how the 5 investment banks conducted themselves in their roles as mortgage servicers.
In 2012, an election year, the idea of a national settlement agreement was pushed hard by the United States represented by the Department of Justice and HUD. See, for example, the articles posted here on January 25, 2012, and the four-part series which concluded on February 2, 2012 on Insurance Claims and Bad Faith Law Blog with links to the other articles in the series.
The Department of Justice and HUD pushed an agreement to settle and release potential claims including claims involving lender force-placed insurance, which the Federal Government held against the 5 mortgage servicers. (The settlement agreement eventually expanded to also include mortgage lending activities by the 5 investment banks. See the article posted on Insurance Claims and Bad Faith Law Blog on July 26, 2012, for example, in addition to the articles linked above.) The U.S. Attorney General and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development pressured many States to join in settling and releasing potential claims held by the States.
The DOJ, HUD, and the States all were represented by legal counsel in this effort.
They may have forgotten to require that the settlement agreement should be binding on the released mortgage servicers' successors and assigns.
The investment banks are selling their mortgage servicing contracts in greater numbers to specialty servicers, as noted above. The specialty servicers are reportedly now doing the same allegedly bad things that drove the investment banks into the so-called National Mortgage Settlement. The specialty servicers are not inhibited let alone restrained by that settlement, to which they were not parties and in which they were apparently never foreseen. See Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery, "Loan Complaints by Homeowners Rise Once More / Old Abuses, New Front / Taking Over For Banks, Mortgage Servicers Sidestep Rules" p. A1, col. 6 (New York Times Nat'l ed., Wednesday, February 19, 2014).
The reports have it that the successors or assignees to these mortgage servicing contracts are repeating the same alleged abuses as were supposedly settled by the investment banks, "because" the banks are regulated and the specialty servicers are not. The reporters have it wrong.
Specialty mortgage servicers are engaging in allegedly bad behaviors, including force-placing insurance abuses on behalf of lenders, simply and completely because they do not see themselves as bound by any agreements the investment banks made with the United States or the States which participated in the "National Mortgage Settlement".
© 2014 by Dennis J. Wall. All rights reserved. No claim to original U.S. Government works.
Please Read The Disclaimer.