Tag Archives: settlements

Financial Freedom Agrees to $89 Million Settlement

Financial Freedom Settles Alleged Liability for Servicing of Federally Insured Reverse Mortgage Loans for $89 Million

By Jeff Sorg, OnlineEd Blog

(May 17, 2017)

briefcase with money(US Dept. of Justice, May 16, 2017) – Financial Freedom has agreed to a settlement with the United States of more than $89 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) in connection with its participation in a federally insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM) or ‘reverse mortgage’ program, the Justice Department announced today. Financial Freedom is headquartered in Austin, Texas.

“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that those who participate in federal mortgage insurance programs comply with requirements essential to the success of its programs,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Among these requirements are the deadlines imposed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) on those who service government insured mortgages. Those deadlines are designed to protect the government’s collateral and stop the unnecessary loss of government funds and resources.”

Through ‘reverse mortgage’ loans, older people are able to access the equity in their homes by borrowing money against the equity they have built in their home. To encourage reverse mortgage loans, the FHA protects lenders from loss by providing mortgage insurance. Under FHA’s program, a loan becomes due and payable when the home is sold or vacant for more than 12 months or upon the death of the homeowner, whichever comes first. The lender is repaid the amount of the loan, including the costs of servicing the loan and any interest that accrues on lender expenses after a loan becomes due and payable. FHA will reimburse a lender that is unable to recoup the full amount of the loan. In order to claim recoupment, the servicer is required to meet a number of regulatory requirements and deadlines.

The United States alleged that Financial Freedom sought to obtain insurance payments for interest from FHA despite failing to properly disclose on the insurance claim forms it filed with the agency that the mortgagee was not eligible for such interest payments because it had failed to meet various deadlines relating to appraisal of the property, submission of claims to HUD, and pursuit of foreclosure proceedings. As a result, from March 31, 2011 to August 31, 2016, the mortgagees on the relevant reverse mortgage loans serviced by Financial Freedom allegedly obtained additional interest that they were not entitled to receive.

The United States’ investigation arose from a declaration filed pursuant to FIRREA by Sandra Jolley, a consultant for the estates of borrowers who took out HECM loans. Under FIRREA, whistleblowers may file declarations concerning alleged violations of the statute and may obtain a share of the recovery. Ms. Jolley will receive $1.6 million from the settlement.

“This settlement represents our office’s continued commitment to protecting the financial solvency of vital financial programs designed to benefit America’s seniors,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida. “HECM servicers must be held accountable for failing to adhere to FHA requirements that are designed to ensure the continued viability of the HECM program. We are pleased that Financial Freedom agreed to accept financial responsibility for these failures.”

“Today’s settlement agreement resolves allegations that this lender failed to comply with FHA servicing requirements and sought to receive financial gains that it was not legally entitled to,” said HUD Inspector General David A. Montoya. “These actions today demonstrate our continued commitment to address and halt business practices that pose a serious risk to the FHA program and the public’s trust in HHUD-administered programs.”

The settlement was the result of the coordinated efforts of the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General and Office of General Counsel. The case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Cohen, along with Trial Attorneys Sean O’Donnell and Christopher Reimer of the Department of Justice Civil Frauds Section.

The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

[Source: US Department of Justice press release]

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All information contained in this posting is deemed correct as of the date of publication, but is not guaranteed by the author and may have been obtained from third-party sources. Due to the fluid nature of the subject matter, regulations, requirements and laws, prices and all other information may or may not be correct in the future and should be verified if cited, shared or otherwise republished.

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Freedom Mortgage Corp. To Pay $113 Million

It is imperative that mortgage lenders that participate in the FHA insurance program follow the rules and requirements set forth by HUD

By Jeff Sorg, OnlineEd Blog

gavel money(April 21, 2016) – Freedom Mortgage Corp. has agreed to pay the United States $113 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly originating and underwriting single family mortgage loans insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that did not meet applicable requirements for the FHA insurance program, the Justice Department announced on April 15, 2016.

“Freedom Mortgage did not properly comply with FHA rules for the mortgages it was generating and did not adequately monitor early payment defaults,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman for the District of New Jersey said. “It also failed to report to HUD the defaults it did discover, as required by its participation in the program.  Today’s settlement recognizes those failures and imposes an appropriate sanction.”

“It is imperative that mortgage lenders that participate in the FHA insurance program follow the rules and requirements set forth by HUD,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “We will continue to work with our partners at HUD, its Office of Inspector General, and U.S. Attorneys around the country to protect homeowners and taxpayers from those who knowingly seek to abuse the FHA program for their own gain.”

During the period covered by the settlement, Freedom Mortgage participated as a direct endorsement lender (DEL) in the FHA insurance program. A DEL has the authority to originate, underwrite and endorse mortgages for FHA insurance. If a DEL approves a mortgage loan for FHA insurance and the loan later defaults, the holder of the loan may submit an insurance claim to HUD, FHA’s parent agency, for the losses resulting from the defaulted loan. Under the DEL program, the FHA does not review a loan for compliance with FHA requirements before it is endorsed for FHA insurance. DELs are therefore required to follow program rules designed to ensure that they are properly underwriting and endorsing mortgages for FHA insurance, to maintain a quality control program that can prevent and correct deficiencies in their underwriting practices and to self-report any deficient loans identified by their quality control program.

The settlement announced resolves allegations that Freedom Mortgage failed to comply with certain FHA origination, underwriting and quality control requirements.

As part of the settlement, Freedom Mortgage admitted to the following facts:

Between Jan. 1, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2011, it certified mortgage loans for FHA insurance that did not meet HUD underwriting requirements and were therefore not eligible for FHA mortgage insurance. Freedom Mortgage did not adhere to FHA’s quality control (QC) requirements. Between 2006 and 2008, Freedom Mortgage did not share its early payment default (EPD) QC reviews with production and underwriting management, nor did it require responses to its EPD QC findings from its production or underwriting staff. Due to staffing limitations between 2008 and 2010, Freedom Mortgage did not always perform timely QC reviews or perform audits of all EPD loans, as required by HUD. An EPD is a loan that becomes 60 days past due within the first six months of the loan. The EPD QC reviews that Freedom Mortgage did perform revealed high defect rates, exceeding 30 percent between 2008 and 2010. Yet, between 2006 and 2011, Freedom Mortgage did not report a single improperly originated loan to HUD, despite its obligation to do so. In 2012, after identifying hundreds of loans that “possibly should have been self-reported to HUD,” it reported only one. As a result of Freedom Mortgage’s conduct, HUD insured hundreds of loans that were not eligible for FHA mortgage insurance under the DEL program, and that HUD would not otherwise have insured and subsequently incurred substantial losses when it paid insurance claims on the ineligible loans approved by Freedom Mortgage.

“This recovery on behalf of the Federal Housing Administration should serve as a reminder of the potential consequences of not following HUD program rules and demonstrates HUD OIG’s continued efforts to combat fraud in the origination of single family mortgages insured by the FHA,” HUD Inspector General David A. Montoya said.

“FHA-approved lenders have a responsibility to comply with underwriting standards,” HUD’s General Counsel Helen Kanovsky said.  “We are gratified that Freedom Mortgage Corporation has accepted responsibility for its actions.”

The settlement was the result of a joint investigation conducted by HUD, HUD OIG, the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, and Senior Litigation Counsel Anthony J. LaBruna and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Orlowski of the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.

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For more information about OnlineEd and their education for real estate brokers, principal brokers, property managers, and mortgage brokers, visit www.OnlineEd.com.

All information contained in this posting is deemed correct as of the date of publication, but is not guaranteed by the author and may have been obtained from third-party sources. Due to the fluid nature of the subject matter, regulations, requirements and laws, prices and all other information may or may not be correct in the future and should be verified if cited, shared or otherwise republished.

OnlineEd® is a registered trademark of OnlineEd, Inc.

Judge Says Gov. Brown and Legislature Illegally Raided Homeowners Fund

thief at safe door(Jeff Sorg, OnlineEd) SF Gate is reporting that a judge has ruled Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature illegally raided a state fund that was created to help distressed homeowners and took $331 million to balance the budget.

The article alleges that money was taken from a fund that contained California’s share of a $5 billion nationwide settlement of a fraud suit by states and the federal government against the nation’s five largest mortgage lending companies: Bank of America, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial, formerly known as GMAC. Here’s the original story.

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For more information about OnlineEd and their education for real estate brokers, principal brokers, property managers, and mortgage brokers, visit www.OnlineEd.com.

  This article was published on June 16, 2015. All information contained in this posting is deemed correct and current as of this date, but is not guaranteed by the author and may have been obtained by third-party sources. Due to the fluid nature of the subject matter, regulations, requirements and laws, prices and all other information may or may not be correct in the future and should be verified if cited, shared or otherwise republished.

MetLife Home Loans to Pay $123.5 Million to Resolve Alleged FHA Mortgage Lending Violations

settlement check(Jeff Sorg, OnlineEd) – In an announcement released by the United States Department of Justice, MetLife Home Loans LLC has agreed to pay the United States $123.5 million to resolve allegations that MetLife Bank N.A. (MetLife Bank) violated the False Claims Act by knowingly originating and underwriting mortgage loans insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that did not meet applicable requirements.

As part of the settlement, MetLife Home Loans LLC admitted to the following: From September 2008 through March 2012, it repeatedly certified for FHA insurance mortgage loans that did not meet HUD underwriting requirements. MetLife Bank was aware that a substantial percentage of these loans were not eligible for FHA mortgage insurance due to its own internal quality control findings. According to these findings, between January 2009 and August 2010, the portion of MetLife Bank loans containing the most serious category of deficiencies, which MetLife Bank called “material/significant,” ranged from 25 percent to more than 60 percent. These quality control findings were routinely shared with MetLife Bank’s senior managers, including the chief executive officer and board of directors. While the overall “significant” error rate identified by MetLife Bank decreased in 2010 and 2011, during the same time period, MetLife Bank more frequently downgraded FHA loans from “significant” to “moderate.” In one instance, a quality control employee wrote in an email discussing MetLife Bank’s practice of downgrading its quality control findings: “Why say Significant when it feels so Good to say MODERATE.” Overall, between January 2009 and December 2011, MetLife Bank identified 1,097 FHA mortgage loans underwritten by MetLife Bank with a “significant” finding, but despite an obligation to self-report findings of material violations of FHA requirements, MetLife Bank only self-reported 321 mortgages to HUD. MetLife Bank’s conduct caused FHA to insure hundreds of loans that were not eligible for insurance and, as a result, FHA suffered substantial losses when it later paid insurance claims on those loans.

“MetLife Bank took advantage of the FHA insurance program by knowingly turning a blind eye to mortgage loans that did not meet basic underwriting requirements, and stuck the FHA and taxpayers with the bill when those mortgages defaulted,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh of the District of Colorado. “This settlement is part of our systematic, national effort to hold lenders accountable for irresponsible lending practices that not only harmed FHA, but also contributed to a catastrophic wave of home foreclosures across the country.”

“MetLife Bank’s improper FHA lending practices not only wasted taxpayer funds, but also inflicted harm on homeowners and the housing market that lasts to this day,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “As this settlement shows, we will continue to hold accountable financial institutions that elected to ignore the rules and to pursue their own financial interests at the expense of hardworking Americans.”

During the time period covered by the settlement, MetLife Bank participated as a Direct Endorsement Lender (DEL) in the FHA insurance program. A DEL has the authority to originate, underwrite and certify mortgages for FHA insurance. If a loan certified for FHA insurance later defaults, the holder of the loan may submit an insurance claim to the FHA for the losses resulting from the defaulted loan. Because the FHA does not review the underwriting of a loan before it is endorsed for FHA insurance, the FHA depends on a DEL to follow program rules to ensure that only eligible loans are submitted for FHA insurance.

Read the complete announcement.

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For more information about OnlineEd and their education for real estate brokers, principal brokers, property managers, and mortgage brokers, visit www.OnlineEd.com.

  This article was published on February 27, 2015. All information contained in this posting is deemed correct and current as of this date, but is not guaranteed by the author and may have been obtained by third-party sources. Due to the fluid nature of the subject matter, regulations, requirements and laws, prices and all other information may or may not be correct in the future and should be verified if cited, shared or otherwise republished.