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California Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Monitor: Servicers Dragging Their Feet

Katherine Porter, the monitor tasked with specific oversight for California’s foreclosure fraud settlement, says what most of us could have suspected: the servicers are dragging their feet on compliance.

The California monitor of the $25 billion national mortgage servicing settlement received roughly 1,100 complaints in the last month from borrowers reporting a slow uptake to the new rules, according to an official in the state attorney general office […]

Brian Nelson, special assistant AG for the California Justice Department said during a HousingWire webinar on the state’s new Homeowner Bill of Rights, that the largest servicers are working to make the changes, especially BofA.

But it may not be until October until homeowners start seeing the results, he said.

“Some are not yet having access to the new protections,” Nelson said. “(Porter) is working with the banks and the national settlement monitor Joseph Smith to make sure that these protections are being put into place.”

We’re mainly talking about the new servicing standards here, not necessary whether relief in the form of principal reductions are getting out to borrowers. The standards from the settlement, most of which were incorporated into California’s Homeowners Bill of Rights, include an end to dual tracking, a single point of contact for borrowers, and a ban on robo-signing. Permanent changes along these lines will come from the servicing standards from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Consumer advocates are upset that the initial proposal on servicing standards from CFPB does not fully end dual tracking, which is when a servicer initiates foreclosure proceedings while negotiating a loan modification with a homeowner.

As for the settlement relief statistics, the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight, headed by North Carolina banking regulator Joseph Smith, plans to deliver a report “in the coming weeks” with preliminary numbers on the settlement through June. “Within the next several weeks, I will release an official report with my analysis of these numbers and other issues pertaining to the settlement,” Smith said in a statement.

Among the complaints Porter, the California monitor, has received: servicers continue to start the foreclosure process while negotiating a short sale, a loophole in the standards.

I fully expect Porter, despite her relatively limited mandate, to take these issues seriously and move forward on whatever action that is within her power.

…in another sign that this settlement is having trouble six months after the announcement, Bloomberg reports that Bank of America continues to experience problems, by their own admission:

Bank of America Corp., plagued by complaints about customer service in its mortgage unit, said it hasn’t yet refinanced a “significant number” of loans as part of the industry’s $25 billion settlement of foreclosure abuses.

The lender blamed the “time required to underwrite” loans for why it hasn’t completed many of its planned $1 billion in modifications, according to a filing earlier this month. By contrast, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) said last week it has already finished a “significant portion” of its $500 million program and Wells Fargo (WFC) & Co. said it expected to complete its $900 million requirement two years ahead of the 2015 deadline.

This only talks about refinancing, which is a small part of the settlement, and one which banks are eager to complete, since they can use the lack of competition in the marketplace to refinance at higher rates than what are available. If BofA can’t get the refinancing commitment done, there’s no hope for the principal reductions.

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David Dayen

David Dayen