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Two Banks' Foreclosure Reviews Grind On After Giants Give Up

JAN 29, 2013 11:14am ET
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The foreclosure review settlement this month gave regulators and banks a chance to escape a costly and much criticized process. But at least two lenders have chosen to soldier on.

The apparent decisions by EverBank and OneWest Bancorp to finish loan-by-loan foreclosure reviews will provide a glimpse of how the big banks' much-maligned foreclosure look-backs would have panned out. Both banks will complete their reviews by mid-summer, according to their regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

"We are continuing with our independent review," says Michael Cosgrove, an EverBank spokesman, in a brief emailed statement to American Banker. Well after other banks laid off their foreclosure review workers en masse, the lender is hiring a “foreclosure lookback coordinator” for a "short term" job. Contract employees of Clayton Holdings, which is running EverBank's review, confirmed that work continued as normal.

OneWest did not respond to a request for comment, and its outside reviewer, Navigant Consulting, declined to speak.

When the OCC and the Federal Reserve announced the settlement on Jan. 7, ten of the largest mortgage servicers had already signed onto the deal. In the following days, HSBC joined in.

That left three settlement holdouts, though one may be a technicality: ResCap, Ally Financial's bankrupt mortgage subsidiary, would likely need court approval before making a major deal with regulators. It has not stopped its review yet.

Viewed in purely financial terms, it is possible that finishing up made more sense for the remaining two banks than some of their peers.

Private-equity buyers acquired OneWest from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in March 2009 under a deal which shielded the new entity from pre-existing legal claims. In a statement to American Banker, a spokesman for the FDIC noted that it had provided "certain indemnifications" but did not flesh out what portion of the foreclosure review costs they might cover.

The banks' size might also play a role. Anecdotal evidence and spending on the reviews to date suggested that the largest banks were further from completing the reviews than their smaller peers. For EverBank, which had just over 30,000 foreclosures potentially subject to review, finishing the review may actually be cheaper than calling it off to pay a settlement.

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