Regulation of Insurers and Banks

Mortgage Fraudsters Continue to Pay

Mortgage fraudsters continue to pay as can be seen in yet another federal trial. The FDIC and CFPB are hard at work with the DOJ and a host of others continuing to clean up the mortgage debacle from the 2008 Crash. I hope that the severe penalties and continuing cleanup will make other fraudsters think twice. It seems you can’t regulate ethics, but perhaps punishment will suffice.

After an 11-day trial, a jury found a husband and wife guilty of conspiracy and bank fraud that totaled $49.6 million.
Domenico “Dom” and Mae Rabuffo were convicted of participating in an elaborate scheme to defraud banks of tens of millions of dollars in connection with a development known as Hampton Springs in Glenville’s Big Ridge community. The crimes are alleged to have occurred between 2003 and 2008.
Dom Rabuffo, 77, of Miami, and Mae Rabuffo, 75, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Williston Park, N.Y., were found guilty of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud affecting a financial institution. Dom Rabuffo was charged with multiple counts of bank fraud.
Sentencing by Chief U.S. District Judge Kevin Moore is expected to take place Sept. 25. They each face a maximum of 30 years in prison for each count.
read more at the Sylva Herald

ALTA Comments on CFPB Report on Consumer Experiences at Closing

Press Release

Our members strongly support efforts to identify and alleviate the pain points consumers have experienced during the home closing process,” said Michelle Korsmo, ALTA’s chief executive officer. “While we are focused on technology and the ability for us to receive, sign and return, and retain electronic documents, we cannot lose sight of the importance of personal interaction during the closing process. At the end of the day, consumers are not buying a home from a computer.”The American Land Title Association (ALTA), the national trade association of the land title industry, released the following statement today from CEO Michelle Korsmo in response to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s report on consumer experience during the mortgage closing process:

“Improving the closing the process through technology by providing electronic documents to the homebuyer will help give the consumer more to time to digest the information about their purchase prior to the closing. We agree with the CFPB that any implementation of new technology in the home closing process should not reduce opportunities for consumers to ask information or replace the ceremony of the closing process which indicates the importance of the transaction. Based on our members’ unique vantage point working with all the parties at the closing table, the Bureau should not only focus on technological innovations but also on improving consumer education about the closing process. The new integrated mortgage disclosure forms that the CFPB developed and will be implemented in August 2015 will help ensure the personal interaction and explanation remains part of the closing experience for consumers.”

“We look forward to continuing to work on this important initiative with Director Cordray and staff at the CFPB on this important consumer initiative.”

Title Insurer Held Liable for Title Agent’s Actions

Insurance Journal (05/03/10)

Thurston County (Wash.) Superior Court Judge Paula Casey has ruled that the state insurance commissioner may hold an insurance company liable for the actions of the company’s appointed agent. “If you allow someone to do business on your behalf, it only stands to reason that you can be held responsible for what they do,” said Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. In an April 23 order, Superior Court Judge Paula Casey ruled that Chicago Title Insurance Co. could be held responsible for illegal inducements offered to solicit title insurance business by one of its appointed agents, Land Title Co. of Kitsap County Inc.   Read full article at Insurance Journal

Some Loan Servicers Run a Scam

A great article by George Mantor at RisMedia points out problems with some loan servicers. It reads in part:
“Servicing, the collecting and distributing of mortgage payments, is the land of opportunity…Who is in a better position to exploit a defaulting borrower than a person posing as someone who wants to help? And, it’s all part of a scam…”

link to  RisMedia article here

Forest Lake Title Company in Bankruptcy

Strand Closing Services of Forest Lake has filed bankruptcy, according to a MN Commerce Department news release. The Dept Commerce is charging Strand, among other things, with allegedly failing to record title documents, failing to remit title insurance premiums, using fraudulent, coercive or dishonest practices and demonstrating incompetence, untrustworthiness or financial irresponsibility. See more at Twin Cities.com

MN Dept Commerce Takes Action against Embezzeling Closer

Used with Permission of Robert Franco, Source of Title
The Minnesota Department of Commerce has summarily suspended the real estate closing license, resident insurance producer license and Notary Public commission of Kuntee Singramdoo and charged her with embezzling over $230,000 in real estate closing proceeds and using the money to pay off her own creditors or her family members’ creditors.

Singramdoo, a resident of Lakeville, was an independent closer hired by Walsh Title & Real Estate Services, where she provided real estate closing services, sold title insurance policies and notarized real estate documents. The Commerce Department complaint alleges that Singramdoo engaged in a pattern of misappropriating, converting and/or embezzling settlement proceeds by issuing Walsh Title checks for her own benefit or for the benefit of her family members.

The alleged embezzlement includes at least 184 checks issued between February 2004 and June 2007 to 24 different creditors including $68,109 to U.S. Bank, $48,863 to Wells Fargo, $800 to JC Penney, $4,764 to Macy’s, $6,286 to Goodman Jewelers, $800 to Bloomingdale’s, $6,866 to Honda, $2,734 to American Express and $2,323 to Discover.

Singramdoo admitted under questioning from Commerce Department investigators that she embezzled the funds but at this time has only paid back $10,000 to Walsh Title.

Singramdoo accomplished the embezzlement by entering her own creditors on the HUD-1 mortgage loan form as if the debts belonged to the buyer or seller and subsequently issued checks directly to the creditors in her name. She also changed HUD-1 mortgage loan documents after closings to reflect the fraudulent payments.

“This brazen embezzlement scheme is a warning to everyone to pay close attention to the loan documents you are signing during the closing of a mortgage,” said Glenn Wilson, the commissioner of Minnesota’s Department of Commerce.

To Fix the Housing Crisis: Get Rid of Title Insurance?!!

Reuters has an interesting, albeit confusing, article referring to a Fix for the Housing Crisis by reinventing  or getting rid of the title insurance industry. It is a great example of just how misunderstood the title industry is. (Thankfully, Reuter’s says the views expressed are the author’s own.)

The author, Elena Panartis, an institutional economist states:

The United States has a broken registry system, and instead of ever fixing it allowed a title insurance industry to arise as a substitute. Title insurance is non-transparent and (at best) inconsistently regulated, yet it is the main system through which information about property valuation flows. Plus, you have to pay for the information. This leads to all sorts of problems, and fuels speculation.

Some examples of the author’s confusion:

·         She confuses the Australian and Canadian Torrens Systems with the U.S. recording system. Only a few counties in the U.S. have the state sponsored Torrens indemnity program

·         She does not recognize there are 50 separate state recording systems for both land title and liens against people that affect title, and  that title companies simplify these into a single, understandable title product for the secondary market

·         She suggests that title companies set values for property rather than insuring market values established by willing buyers and sellers or an appraiser. Not true.

·         She seems to think information obtained from public offices is free. Not only not free, often difficult to obtain from the myriad of places to search.

It seems we need to do a lot more education with economists to explain what title insurance does and how it makes the housing market safer for the public and better for the economy. The author is a teacher at the university level. She should be more careful in what she says. She does not know the product , nor does she how the systems work.

What does Mortgage Modification mean to the Title Industry?

The Title Insurance industry has slowed to a crawl. Most of the business at the closing table is either a foreclosure or a short sales. And with Congress’ plan to modify existing mortgages, even that pittance will be drying up. 

Congress plans to modify existing mortgages to lower rates so borrowers can afford their monthly payments.  How does this affect the title industry you ask? In the past, when mortgages were modified, title policies were still in the picture, because intervening liens were a concern. For example, let’s say Sam Smith wanted to modify the terms of his loan by increasing the loan amount. You were the first mortgage lender. If you modified the loan, you had to worry about what that would do to your 1st lien position. If there was a second mortgage or a tax lien on the property, changing the terms of your loan might bump you into second place or third place. The title industry therefore stepped forward with updates to the policies. we checked for intervening liens, we got subordination agreements from the secondary lien holders, we recorded lots of documentation, and endorsed the policy with matching fees for our work.

So, how is this different? Think about it. Titles on all of these troubled loans have already been insured. But this time, they likely won’t need to be insured again. The new loan modification law will generally decrease the interest rate and that will be an advantage to any secondary lien holders, putting them in a stronger position. Therefore, the modification should stand on its face, and no endorsements should be needed. So, there won’t be any need for that title review, or an endorsement to the policy, or new title insurance premium fees. Their might be a pittance for sitting down with the consumer to sign the modification agreement and record it (and with the new RESPA law, title companies won’t even be able to mark up the recording fee.)

Loan modifications are good for the consumer, and good for the economy. They help neighborhoods. They keep banks out of the painful REO business. But they provide little role for title companies. Ouch – another big ding for an already hurting industry.

The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan

Moody’s Economy.com estimates nearly 13.8 million of the 52 million U.S. homeowners, almost 27 percent, owe more than their homes are worth after many months of declining prices. So what does the Obama plan say and how will that affect title insurers?

The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan anticipates slowing 7-9 million foreclosures. One part of the plan would be to refinance mortgages on primary residences insured by Freddie and Fannie whose values have sunk below the mortgage balance. The plan would make the lender responsible to lower interest rates so that a borrower’s monthly mortgage payment is no more than 38 percent of his income. The government would then pay to lower that even further, down to 31 percent of the borrower’s income for a period of five years. The rate would then progressively increase to the original respective loan rate. The program would not be available to real estate speculators, for second homes, investment properties or “flipped” houses.

 

Benefits For the Borrowers:

This would significantly reduce monthly payments. Under the plan, not only will the borrowers amortize their loans quicker, but they will also receive an incentive for making timely payments, receiving principal balance reductions up to $1,000 each year for 5 years for good credit habits.

 

Benefits For the Lenders/Servicers

·         Servicers could receive up-front fees of $1,000 for each eligible modification meeting guidelines

·         They would also receive “pay for success” fees — awarded so long as the borrower stays current on the loan — up to $1,000 each year for three years.

·         Another incentive offers mortgage holders $500 paid to servicers, and $1,500 to mortgage holders, if they modify at-risk loans before the borrower falls behind in  payments.

·         A $10 billion quasi-insurance plan will insure lenders against falling values on modified loans, linked with declines in the home price index, as an incentive for lenders not to jump the gun on foreclosures due to fear of the continuing drop in home values.

·         Clear guidelines and rules for loan modifications for all loans owned or guaranteed by the Feds, including Ginnie, Fannie, Freddie, FHA, VA, etc. would be established

 

Congress is also considering allowing bankruptcy judges to rewrite terms of mortgages so long as the homeowners commit to make payments and stay in their homes.

So what does that mean for a title insurer? My bet is the regulations will provide that mortgage modifications will not require any type of endorsement to existing loan policies, leaving title companies with either no role in the process, or simply that of a loan modification signing agent.

 

Source: White House Press Office

 

Info On Home Closing

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