Regulators: Banks still failing mortgage service tests
Four years after pledging to clean up wide-ranging foreclosure abuses, Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and four other banks still aren’t complying with customer-service standards imposed by a federal regulator.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said last week that it has restricted mortgage servicing operations at Wells Fargo, Chase, U.S. Bancorp, Santander Bank, EverBank Financial Corp. and HSBC Holdings.
“We’re not satisfied with where they are at this point in time,” Morris Morgan, deputy comptroller for large banks, said during a conference call.
By contrast, the agency said it had lifted consent orders against Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and PNC Financial Services, finding that they have complied with the orders issued in April 2011 and amended in February 2013.
Morgan said regulators expect that Wells Fargo, Chase and the other four noncomplying banks to take “months, not years,” to meet servicing standards.
For now, the banks must seek permission from the comptroller to name senior servicing managers, set up offshore call centers or acquire mortgage servicing business, which collects payments and handles foreclosures.
The harshest penalties were against San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, California’s largest bank and one of the top four nationwide, and international giant HSBC, based in London.
Wells Fargo and HSBC were banned from acquiring additional mortgage servicing rights or setting up servicing in other countries until they can show they are complying with the terms of consent orders.
The banks will be permitted to service their existing mortgage portfolios as well as their own newly originated home loans.
The restrictions are significant because big banks and nonbank servicers such as Ocwen Financial Corp., a specialist in handling troubled subprime borrowers, frequently trade these mortgage servicing rights.
For example, Bank of America, which became the largest mortgage servicer after buying high-risk lender Countrywide Financial Corp. in 2008, has since sold off rights to service most of the troubled mortgages it acquired in that ill-fated deal to Ocwen and other servicers.
Bank of America mortgage spokesman Dan Frahm said the number of borrowers more than 60 days past due on home loans serviced by the bank has fallen to fewer than 150,000 from 1.4 million in 2011.
Chase recently acquired the right to service $45 billion in higher-quality, nondelinquent mortgages from Ocwen.
Banking regulators obtained the consent orders after scandals involving the so-called robo-signing of foreclosure documents by officials without knowledge of the facts as well as other legal shortcuts, lost paperwork and improper fees — all common after the mortgage meltdown as banks struggled to handle surging defaults.
The agreements were separate from a $26 billion settlement that the five biggest mortgage servicers reached to put an end to foreclosure-abuse investigations by state attorneys general, the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In a statement, Chase said it has made “significant progress” in meeting the terms of its consent order, noting, “we believe we’re in a position to complete our remaining items by the end of the summer.”
Wells Fargo said it had made “significant changes” in servicing. “We have an action plan in place to complete that work in the coming months,” it said.
U.S. Bank said it takes regulatory obligations “very seriously” and is “working to resolve” the agency’s concerns.
The comptroller also lifted its consent orders against Bank of America, Citibank and PNC Bank after the regulator in 2011 faulted those lenders and others for unsafe and unsound home-loan servicing and foreclosure practices. The comptroller’s office said Wednesday the three have complied with the orders and amendments made to them in 2013.
“Each of the three banks that have satisfied the requirements of the order has completed a significant transformation of their operations, but even the six banks that are getting amended orders have undertaken a significant volume of work,” Morris Morgan, a deputy comptroller for large banks at the OCC, said in a conference call with reporters.
The Charlotte Observer contributed to this story.