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Complaints to Mortgage Servicers in National Settlement Level Off

FEB 19, 2014 3:06pm ET
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The volume of complaints lodged by distressed borrowers to four of the largest U.S. banks has stabilized, the monitor for the national mortgage settlement says.

However, complaints remain higher than he would like, Joseph A. Smith Jr. said in an interview Tuesday at the Mortgage Bankers Association's servicing conference in Orlando.

"Servicers and counselors are not always transparent explaining the holdups of where you are in the loan modification process," Smith said. "They need to let borrowers know who they need to contact so resolutions can be handled in a quicker manner."

In December, Smith's office released a report that found the banks subject to the 2012 national settlement over botched foreclosures failed in many cases to provide timely or adequate notifications to borrowers in various stages of the loan-modification or foreclosure process.

All of the banks still covered by the settlement—Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup—"have asserted to me" they have satisfied their consumer relief obligations, Smith said Tuesday.

Data assessing how the major banks have handled the servicing of distressed home mortgage loans over the second half of last year will be released in May.

Even though servicers have passed most of the 29 compliance tests they are being monitored on, each failed on at least one of the metrics, Smith said, in some cases by large margins.

"The servicers have instituted corrective action plans to address the causes of failure and a number of such plans have been successfully implemented," Smith said in a presentation at the conference. "While I don’t want to prejudge the results, I do think the early returns for the latest periods are encouraging."

Smith emphasized that these major servicers are committed to single point of contact as a mode of communication with a borrower and are continuously working on helping borrowers know what is needed to complete an application for relief.

"Distressed borrowers and those who represent them are better off today than they were two years ago than they would have been without the settlement," Smith said. “The settlement laid a solid foundation" for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's servicing standards, "and should allow the servicers who are parties to make a smooth transition to the CFPB rules alone after the settlement has sunset."

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