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Monitor Continues to Investigate Ocwen Over Compliance With Settlement Terms

investigation-twoIn an update on consumer relief activities from SunTrust Mortgage and Ocwen Financial, two parties to the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement (NMS), independent settlement monitor Joseph A. Smith, Jr., said he will continue to investigate Ocwen over the possibility of noncompliance with terms of the NMS.

In what was Ocwen's second report on consumer relief under the NMS, the Atlanta-based servicer reported that through the end of the fourth quarter in 2014, 21,257 borrowers had completed first-lien modifications and benefited from $1.9 billion in consumer relief. That figure computes to approximately $91,000 per borrower. Ocwen also reported that an additional 284,089 borrowers had either started a trial modification or were offered or approved for a trial modification by the end of Q4. These were Ocwen's self-reported numbers and they have not been credited by the monitor as of yet.

Smith, who is overseeing Ocwen's compliance with the terms of the NMS, said his team launched an investigation in May 2014 after hearing from an employee about "serious deficiencies in Ocwen's internal review group process" and issues relating to erroneously dated foreclosure notices to about 7,000 borrowers. The latter issue resulted in Ocwen reaching a $150 million settlement with the New York Department of Financial Services in December. In the latest update on the NMS, Smith his investigation of Ocwen's compliance with the standards of the NMS continues. Ocwen falls under Smith's supervision due to Ocwen's acquisition of mortgage servicing rights from a unit of Ally Financial, one of the original banks included in the settlement.

“I am encouraged by Ocwen’s consumer relief progress, but I continue to investigate issues of potential noncompliance with the NMS servicing standards," Smith said. "My team and I take this matter seriously, and this investigation is ongoing. I will report my findings later this spring."

Regarding the investigation, Ocwen released a statement saying, "Ocwen is continuing to fully cooperate with the National Mortgage Settlement Monitor. We are committed to full compliance with all regulatory requirements."

In what was SunTrust's first report to the monitor on progress toward fulfilling consumer relief obligations under the NMS, the Atlanta-based financial services company said that 6,139 borrowers have benefited from some type of consumer relief offered by SunTrust. More than 3,000 borrowers who are either first-time homebuyers, live in hardest-hit areas, or have lost a home to foreclosure or short sale received new loans, according to SunTrust, and the company offered first-lien modification forgiveness totaling $6 million to 49 borrowers – approximately $123,602 per borrower. These numbers, like Ocwen's, are self-reported by SunTrust and are awaiting review from the monitor before they are officially credited toward SunTrust's obligation under the terms of the NMS.

"This is SunTrust’s first report on its progress toward fulfilling its $500 million obligation under the National Mortgage Settlement," Smith said. "This data is gross and self-reported, and my team and I are in the process of crediting SunTrust’s consumer relief progress."

The NMS was originally finalized in April 2012 between 49 states and the District of Columbia, the federal government, and five banks and/or mortgage servicers (Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, ResCap Parties, and Wells Fargo), creating new servicing standards and providing relief to distressed homeowners as well as funding for state and federal governments. As part of the agreement, the five servicers were required to provide $20 billion in consumer relief and $5 billion in other payments. The settlement is considered landmark because it established the first-ever nationwide reforms to mortgage servicing that include better communication between servicers and borrowers as well as a single point of contact and appropriate standards servicers for executing documents in foreclosure cases.

Ocwen entered into a new consent judgment with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in February 2014 that requires Ocwen to provide $2.1 billion in consumer relief and to comply with the servicing standards set forth by the NMS.

About Author: Brian Honea

Brian Honea's writing and editing career spans nearly two decades across many forms of media. He served as sports editor for two suburban newspaper chains in the DFW area and has freelanced for such publications as the Yahoo! Contributor Network, Dallas Home Improvement magazine, and the Dallas Morning News. He has written four non-fiction sports books, the latest of which, The Life of Coach Chuck Curtis, was published by the TCU Press in December 2014. A lifelong Texan, Brian received his master's degree from Amberton University in Garland.
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