Marissa M. Yaker Esq. serves as Managing Attorney of Regulatory Affairs for Padgett Law Group (PLG), focused on creditor’s rights and foreclosure, an area of law in which she has actively practiced for five years.
Yaker has a passion FHA-related servicing and has conducted numerous onsite trainings, participated on conference panels, led digital webinars, and authored numerous articles related to the oversight and servicing of FHA loans. She is a member of Legal League 100’s Special Working Initiatives Group; Mortgage Bankers Association’s FHA Sub-Committee; the Florida Bar Grievance Committee; and a member of the American Legal & Financial Network’s Women in Legal Leadership (WILL) and Junior Professionals & Executives Group (JPEG).
She was sworn in to the U.S. Supreme Court as a member on December 9, 2019, and in January 2020, was recognized by DS News as one of the Top 25 Women in Law.
DS News recently had a chance to catch up with Marissa and discuss the state of the servicing industry in a post-pandemic world.
DSNews: We are now two years-plus into a very unprecedented period for the industry. What has worked well in terms of servicing and the legal side of things? What were the “wins” for this period?
Yaker: I think we learned a lot from the 2008 housing crisis. This time around, we learned that paperless was the way to go in reference to enforcing Interim Rule Regulation X that was enacted in July 2020. That pretty much made it a paperless process because a lot of borrowers stated back in 2008, part of the reason why they couldn't get the loss mitigation assistance they needed was because they were inundated by paperwork.
What we saw this time around, we saw industry and agency collaboration. All the agencies immediately enforced and released guidance on how to navigate this time. I mean, I think the first Mortgagee Letter came out March 18, 2020, and everything was coming very quickly from March onward when the national emergency was enacted by the Administration.
In addition to industry collaboration, everybody wanted to know what each other was doing, how they were doing it, and if there was a better way to do it.
DS News: Were there any pain points or lessons learned that could be applied to future disruptions in the industry
Yaker: The industry probably struggled the most with during this unprecedented time were all the new updates, handbooks, and amendments to the regulations. While trying to navigate all these new loss mitigation requirements, servicers also had to try to navigate and enhance their systems for a number of amendments to existing rules.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recognized that there are newer technologies, and new ways to contact borrowers, so servicers also had to enhance their systems, and train on these new systems.
And then there were Handbook updates, and making sure that servicers’ systems and their staff were properly trained.
I think that was probably one of the more difficult obstacles, trying to navigate all the requirements. The CFPB was very clear that unprepared is unacceptable, so everybody wanted to make sure they were compliant. But there was also some gray area when it came to regulations and how to enforce them.
DS News: If you could pinpoint three things that came out of this period that impacted the industry, what would they be
Yaker: The first one would be what I stated earlier in terms of industry collaboration. That worked out so well, and I hope it will continue in the future.
Second would be the paperless process. I think that a lot of bureaus received the assistance needed because there weren't so many loopholes in reference to filling out the paperwork and just being able to contact their servicer and stating that they had been impacted by COVID. Maybe finding that middle ground of what is enough paperwork, what is too much paperwork was key during this period.
The third major takeaway from this period would be continuing to have that open line of communication as an industry between servicers, agencies, and law firms about what is working and what is not working to help these borrowers.
DS News: Were there any lessons learned on the staffing side of things, such as being prepared to be flexible and pivot to deal with the fluctuation in volume?
Yaker: Our law firm, Padgett Law Group (PLG), was fortunate as we already had a pandemic plan in place in reference to making sure that our staff was able to work remote and so forth. I think a lot of companies right now are trying to determine if the remote life worked or if employees were taking advantage of it?
We have also seen a lot of transition out of the industry during the pandemic. In trying to keep all these people that we consider our family within the industry, we must continue that personal connection if we do continue to remain remote. PLG has made sure that we have done that, and I have been fortunate in that regard. But making sure the industry as a whole continues to maintain that personal connection is extremely important because you work with these people every day. They are your family … they are your friends. You see them sometimes more than your own family! Staffing has been interesting in maintaining that personal connection, keeping morale high, and keeping people engaged.
DS News: Looking ahead to the rest of 2022, what does success look like for you on a personal front and from an industry standpoint?
Yaker: They are both very related. My goal has been and always will be to continue to share the information that is out there, because sometimes people don't know where all the information is. Continuing to share the resources that are released by the CFPB, HUD, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the VA, and the Biden Administration for that matter, are all useful resources to provide direction and clarity on what is going on in the industry.