Title Insurance

License Renewals for MN are Due by June 30th

Real estate agents, abstracters, closing agents and brokers are reminded that they must renew their licenses on or before June 30th. So please check your license for renewals.

Information from the Commerce Department on MN state licensing can be found here.

Pulseportal information can be found here.

OCC Adds Information for Third Party Vendors

On June 7th, the OCC added bulletin 29 to third-party relationships to clarify the way lenders should interact with third party vendors, to us, that means how lenders deal title and closing providers.

    Get the entire OCC bulletin here

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As a part of the lengthy bulletin, it stated the lender is responsible for ongoing monitoring.

Ongoing Monitoring
Ongoing monitoring for the duration of the third-party relationship is an essential component of the bank’s risk management process. More comprehensive monitoring is necessary when the third-party relationship involves critical activities. Senior management should periodically assess existing third-party relationships to determine whether the nature of the activity performed now constitutes a critical activity.
After entering into a contract with a third party, bank management should dedicate sufficient staff with the necessary expertise, authority, and accountability to oversee and monitor the third party commensurate with the level of risk and complexity of the relationship. Regular on site visits may be useful to understand fully the third party’s operations and ongoing ability to meet contract requirements. Management should ensure that bank employees that directly manage third-party relationships monitor the third party’s activities and performance. A bank should pay particular attention to the quality and sustainability of the third party’s controls, and its ability to meet service-level agreements, performance metrics and other contractual terms, and to comply with legal and regulatory requirements.
The OCC expects the bank’s ongoing monitoring of third-party relationships to cover the due diligence activities discussed earlier. Because both the level and types of risks may change over the lifetime of third-party relationships, a bank should ensure that its ongoing monitoring adapts accordingly. This monitoring may result in changes to the frequency and types of required reports from the third party, including service-level agreement performance reports, audit reports, and control testing results. In addition to ongoing review of third-party reports, some key areas of consideration for ongoing monitoring may include assessing changes to the third party’s
• business strategy (including acquisitions, divestitures, joint ventures) and reputation (including litigation) that may pose conflicting interests and impact its ability to meet contractual obligations and service-level agreements.
• compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.
• financial condition.
• insurance coverage.
• key personnel and ability to retain essential knowledge in support of the activities.
• ability to effectively manage risk by identifying and addressing issues before they are cited in audit reports.
• process for adjusting policies, procedures, and controls in response to changing threats and new vulnerabilities and material breaches or other serious incidents.
• information technology used or the management of information systems.
• ability to respond to and recover from service disruptions or degradations and meet business resilience expectations.
• reliance on, exposure to, or performance of subcontractors; location of subcontractors; and the ongoing monitoring and control testing of subcontractors.
• agreements with other entities that may pose a conflict of interest or introduce reputation, operational, or other risks to the bank.
• ability to maintain the confidentiality and integrity of the bank’s information and systems.
• volume, nature, and trends of consumer complaints, in particular those that indicate compliance or risk management problems.
• ability to appropriately remediate customer complaints.
Bank employees who directly manage third-party relationships should escalate to senior management significant issues or concerns arising from ongoing monitoring, such as an increase in risk, material weaknesses and repeat audit findings, deterioration in financial condition, security breaches, data loss, service or system interruptions, or compliance lapses. Additionally, management should ensure that the bank’s controls to manage risks from third-party relationships are tested regularly, particularly where critical activities are involved. Based on the results of the ongoing monitoring and internal control testing, management should respond to issues when identified including escalating significant issues to the board.

Title Agent Charged with Negligence and Compensatory Damages

A Connecticut title agent was held liable for $77,500 that was paid by a Title Underwriter to clear title to property it insured, as well as more than $20,000 in compensatory damages for fees and expenses incurred in negotiating the settlement. The case showcased liability by the agent for a negligent title search, and breach of duty to the underwriter.

Read the case here.

Minnesota Considers New Ag Tax Credit for Farmers

Author Comment:  In spite of Green Acre taxes, Minnesota Farmers face heavy real estate taxes on farmland, causing them to vote against independent school district referendums. So look for a new tax search to follow along with deferred Green Acre and Open Space  Taxes.   Lt. Gov. Tina Smith is working to help resolve this. 

Daily Globe | January 20, 2017

Smith called the current situation a perfect storm. Farmers are suffering from low commodity prices, high land values and, for many, crushing health care costs. The prospect of their property taxes increasing by hundreds or thousands of dollars sent many to the polls in November to vote down building bond referendums like the one for ISD 518.

“The farm economy has been struggling for the past few years. Rising property tax bills are not what’s needed across the state,” said Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner David Frederickson. Noting that property taxes have increased by 114 percent for Minnesota farmers in the past decade, Frederickson said a majority of levy referendums in rural Minnesota failed in 2016, while the majority of levy referendums posed to city dwellers passed.

Read More on this

Mortgage Bankers Assoc. Cuts 2017 Forecast

MBA Cuts 2017 Q1 Origination Forecast

MBA Forecast

Following the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise rates a quarter point, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) lowered its origination forecast for the first quarter of 2017.

“We have adjusted the path of interest rates upwards a bit more quickly in 2017 reflecting the fact that the recent rate increase following the election has been sustained,” the MBA reported.

The total volume of one- to four-family mortgage loan originations is expected to reach $352 billion in the first quarter, according to the MBA’s December Mortgage Finance Forecast. This is down from the $365 billion in first-quarter volume the MBA had predicted in November. The lower forecast remains higher than the $350 billion in origination volume recorded in the first quarter of 2016.

The biggest drop off will be experienced in the refinance channel as rates have moved higher, forcing a more rapid decrease in an already slow refinance market. The MBA reported that refinance volume is now expected to reach $140 billion in the first quarter, down from the November forecast of $145 billion. The MBA also projected that purchase origination volume will total $212 billion, down from its prediction of $220 billion last month.

“We still forecast $1.10 trillion in purchase mortgage originations during 2017, an 11 percent increase from 2016,” the MBA reported. “Strong household formation coupled with further job growth, rising wages, and continuing home price appreciation will drive growth in purchase originations in the coming years.”

CFPB Updates Use of Service Providers

On October 31st, the CFPB issued updates to lenders  on use of Service Providers. This appears to allow a bit more flexibility for the lender to handle day to day affairs with its Servie Providers and is good news for title companies, abstracting and closing companies.  The update states:

“The Bureau is reissuing its guidance on service providers, formerly titled CFPB Bulletin 2012-03, Service Providers to clarify that the depth and formality of the risk management program for service providers may vary depending upon the service being performed—its size, scope, complexity, importance and potential for consumer harm—and the performance of the service provider in carrying out its activities in compliance with Federal consumer financial laws and regulations. This amendment is needed to clarify that supervised entities have flexibility and to allow appropriate risk management.”

Lenders continue to be advised to:

take steps to review Service Providers and should include, but are not limited to:

  • Conducting thorough due diligence to verify that the service provider understands and is capable of complying with Federal consumer financial law;
  • Requesting and reviewing the service provider’s policies, procedures, internal controls, and training materials to ensure that the service provider conducts appropriate training and oversight of employees or agents that have consumer contact or compliance responsibilities;
  • Including in the contract with the service provider clear expectations about compliance, as well as appropriate and enforceable consequences for violating any compliance-related responsibilities, including engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices;
  • Establishing internal controls and on-going monitoring to determine whether the service provider is complying with Federal consumer financial law; and
  • Taking prompt action to address fully any problems identified through the monitoring process, including terminating the relationship where appropriate.

For more information pertaining to the responsibilities of a supervised bank or nonbank that has business arrangements with service providers, please review the CFPB’s Supervision and Examination Manual: Compliance Management Review and Unfair, Deceptive, and Abusive Acts or Practices.[3]

 

 

 

Court Rules Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Structure Is Unconstitutional

Excellent Article in The Atlantic today on the CFPB

After a spate of recent activity which has included introducing long-awaited regulations for payday lenders and prepaid cards and a nearly $200 million fraud settlement from Wells Fargo, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau must now face a new challenge—more oversight.

On Tuesday, a Washington, D.C. circuit court found the structure of the CFPB to be unconstitutional. More specifically, the court took issue with the inability for other arms of the government to review or rebuke the Bureau’s judgements or actions and the unilateral power imbued in the CFPB’s director—currently Richard Corday.

The judgement states:

The Director enjoys significantly more unilateral power than any single member of any other independent agency. By “unilateral power,” we mean power that is not checked by the President or by other colleagues. Indeed, other than the President, the Director of the CFPB is the single most powerful official in the entire United States Government, at least when measured in terms of unilateral power.

The court then goes on to proclaim that the director of the CFPB is given more power and autonomy than the speaker of the house, senate majority leader, or even a Supreme Court justice.

Read entire article at The Atlantic

First American: Loan Application Defect and Fraud Risk Declines

Press Release 7/31/2016

First American Financial Corporation, a leading global provider of title insurance, settlement services and risk solutions for real estate transactions, today released theFirst American Loan Application Defect Index for June 2016, which estimates the frequency of defects, fraudulence and misrepresentation in the information submitted in mortgage loan applications. The Defect Index reflects estimated mortgage loan defect rates over time, by geography and by loan type. It’s available as an interactive tool that can be tailored to showcase trends by category, including amortization type, lien position, loan purpose, property and transaction types, as well as state and market comparisons of mortgage loan defect levels.

“The Defect Index has fallen 5.3 percent over the last three months, and this trend shows no sign of abating. The index has been reaching new lows this year, continuing its long-term trend. Since its inception, the Defect Index has been consistently trending lower, apart from the increases in risk in 2013 and early 2015,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American.

“There are two factors driving the long-term decline in the Defect Index, the impact of improvements to the systems and production standards mitigating risk throughout the lending industry, and the continued strength of refinance application activity due to low mortgage rates. According to the MBA, refinance activity is up slightly on a year-over-year basis. The average rate for a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage was 3.57 percent, compared to 3.6 percent in May,” said Fleming. “Our research finds that refinance applications are inherently less risky than purchase applications, so defect and fraud risk declines as refinance applications become a larger share of the overall mix of loan applications.”

The Defect Index for refinance transactions declined 3.2 percent month-over-month, and is 15.5 percent lower than a year ago. The Defect Index for purchase transactions declined 1.2 percent month-over-month, and is down 11.1 percent compared to a year ago. Since defect risk for both purchase and refinance transactions peaked in late 2013, defect risk on refinance transactions continues to decline much more than defect risk for purchase transactions, declining 40.0 percent as compared to 23.7 percent for purchase transactions.

“We expect the declining loan application defect risk trend to continue into July, as the impacts of ‘Brexit’ and global uncertainty keep rates low, triggering an increase in the volume of lower risk refinance loan applications,” said Fleming.

June 2016 State Highlights

  • The five states with the highest year-over-year increase in defect frequency are: Maine (+14.0 percent), North Dakota (+13.6 percent), Missouri (+10.0 percent), Montana (+5.3 percent), and Alaska (+2.8 percent).
  • The five states with the highest year-over-year decrease in defect frequency are: Michigan (-31.4 percent), Florida (-21.8 percent), Delaware (-19.5 percent), Connecticut (-17.8 percent), and New York (-17.6 percent).

June 2016 Local Market Highlights

  • Among the largest 50 Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs), the only one market with year-over-year increase in defect frequency is: St. Louis (+9.9 percent).
  • Among the largest 50 CBSAs, the five markets with the highest year-over-yeardecrease in defect frequency are: Detroit (-35.9 percent); Jacksonville, Fla. (-23.5 percent); Miami (-22.7 percent); Louisville/Jefferson, Ky. (-20.3 percent); and Orlando, Fla. (-20.2 percent).

Where in the Application is the Defect Risk?

“In the post-crisis housing finance landscape, the attention paid to the borrower’s ability-to-pay and emphasis on issuing loans that have a reasonable and sustainable mortgage payment has increased. In other words – income matters,” said Fleming. “Within the Loan Application Defect Risk Index, we also measure specific risk categories, including defect, misrepresentation and fraud risk associated with the reporting and documentation of income in a mortgage loan application.”

“If the income is being inaccurately measured or misrepresented intentionally in the loan application, the borrower’s true ability-to-pay and the sustainability of the mortgage are incorrectly measured. Interestingly, the trend in income-related defect risk offers some good news. The risk related to income is down 3 percent over the last three months and more than 10 percent in the last year,” said Fleming. “This beneficial decline in income-related defect and misrepresentation risk is a benefit of the technological and process investments made by the lending industry to meet compliance and regulatory requirements. The result is better measurement at the loan application level of the borrower’s ability-to-pay and more accurate identification of sustainable mortgages.

“Income-related misrepresentation and fraud risk is declining, as loan underwriting standards have become more disciplined and as the lending industry have made compliance and regulatory driven investments,” said Fleming. “We continue to improve our ability to accurately project a borrower’s ability-to-pay and the sustainability of a mortgage — a benefit to consumers and lenders alike.”

Next Release

The next release of the First American Loan Application Defect Index will be posted the week of August 22, 2016.

Methodology

The methodology statement for the First American Loan Application Defect Index is available athttp://www.firstam.com/economics/defect-index.

Disclaimer

Opinions, estimates, forecasts and other views contained in this page are those of First American’s Chief Economist, do not necessarily represent the views of First American or its management, should not be construed as indicating First American’s business prospects or expected results, and are subject to change without notice. Although the First American Economics team attempts to provide reliable, useful information, it does not guarantee that the information is accurate, current or suitable for any particular purpose. © 2016 by First American. Information from this page may be used with proper attribution.

About First American

First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF) is a leading provider of title insurance, settlement services and risk solutions for real estate transactions that traces its heritage back to 1889. First American also provides title plant management services; title and other real property records and images; valuation products and services; home warranty products; property and casualty insurance; and banking, trust and investment advisory services. With revenues of $5.2 billion in 2015, the company offers its products and services directly and through its agents throughout the United States and abroad. In 2016, First American was recognized by Fortune®magazine as one of the 100 best companies to work for in America. More information about the company can be found atwww.firstam.com.

FinCEN asks Title Companies to Investigate Cash Sales and $ Laundering

WASHINGTON

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has issued Geographic Targeting Orders (GTO) that will temporarily require certain U.S. title insurance companies to identify the natural persons behind companies used to pay all cash for high-end residential real estate in the Borough of Manhattan in New York City, New York, and Miami-Dade County, Florida. FinCEN is concerned that all-cash purchases (i.e. those without bank financing) may be conducted by individuals attempting to hide their assets and identity by purchasing residential properties through limited liability companies or other opaque structures. To enhance availability of information pertinent to mitigating this potential money laundering vulnerability, FinCEN will require certain title insurance companies to identify and report the true “beneficial owner” behind a legal entity involved in certain high-end residential real estate transactions in Manhattan and Miami-Dade County.

We are seeking to understand the risk that corrupt foreign officials, or transnational criminals, may be using premium U.S. real estate to secretly invest millions in dirty money, said FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery. Over the years, our rules have evolved to make the standard mortgage market more transparent and less hospitable to fraud and money laundering. But cash purchases present a more complex gap that we seek to address. These GTOs will produce valuable data that will assist law enforcement and inform our broader efforts to combat money laundering in the real estate sector.

The order is temporary in effect, through August 27th. Read full article HERE.

Pennsylvania Man Indicted in Massive Title and Mortgage Fraud Scheme

from press release
   

George Barnard, 45, of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, owner of a mortgage lending business and several title companies, has been indicted and charged with 24 counts of wire fraud, four counts of bank fraud, and three counts of filing a false tax return.

The indictment alleges that Barnard, who from 2005 to March 2013 was one of the two owners of Capital Financial Mortgage Corporation (“CFMC”), based in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and also was the owner of several title companies, defrauded banks out of almost $13 million dollars and instead of using the money to fund mortgage loans for borrowers and pay off the borrowers’ existing mortgages, he took the money for his personal benefit, including buying yachts, luxury cars, multi-million dollar beach homes in Avalon, New Jersey, paying the salary of a yacht captain, gambling, luxury suites in a sports arena, and other personal expenses. The indictment further alleges that in order to continue to have access to a large pool of money to fund his extravagant lifestyle, Barnard orchestrated a massive fraud scheme, which included selling other banks the mortgages that CFMC had written and representing to the lenders who purchasing those mortgages that they were first mortgages, when in reality they were worthless second mortgages.

The indictment alleges that while the tax returns Barnard filed with the IRS showed hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses, in reality Barnard had more than $2,300,000 in unreported income, and in order to convince other banks to issue mortgage loans to him so he could purchase yachts and multi-million dollar beach homes, Barnard gave false tax returns to the banks with inflated income figures, and on at least one occasion, told the bank that he was buying the beach home for more than $3,000,000 when in reality the sales price was $2,000,000. The indictment alleges that Barnard was able to conceal this deception by using his own title company to handle the closing of that loan and falsifying closing documents.

The indictment alleged that as a result of Barnard’s actions, lenders suffered losses of more than $12,700,000, and more than 25 borrowers who obtained refinance loans from CFMC were stuck with two mortgages on their homes after Barnard’s companies failed to pay off the borrowers’ existing first mortgages.

Barnard faces a maximum sentence of 669 years’ imprisonment, a five-year period of supervised release, a $12,300,000 fine, a $3,300 special assessment, and a likely advisory sentencing guideline range of 135 – 168 months’ imprisonment.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigative Division, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael S. Lowe.

 

Info On Home Closing

Home Closing 101: An Educational Initiative of the American Land Title Association