National City Wrangles with Mortgage Insurer over Claims

In a regulatory filing with the SEC, National City Corp. said one of the two mortgage insurance companies covering its home-equity loans has refused to make payments on a significant number of claims.

A spokesperson for NCC declined to name the mortgage insurance firm involved in the dispute. However, published speculation has focused on Radian Group, which acknowledged in its own recent SEC filing that it has increased scrutiny of MI claims on first- and second-lien claims.

A Radian spokesperson said the company does not name its clients because of confidentiality agreements, but she said the company "has and continues to act in good faith, and we follow or adhere to all of our contractual obligations."

In the SEC filing, NCC said one of the two providers has been paying claims promptly on the lender-paid MI policies on its $2.2 billion second-lien portfolio, while the other "has been rejecting a reasonable number of claims filed for reasons that National City believes are inappropriate under the insurance contract."

National City said it plans to pursue legal remedies against the MI company if an agreement cannot be reached by the end of this month.

National City said that depending upon how the dispute is resolved, it may have to increase loss reserves by an amount in the range of $50 million.

Those MI policies are also partially re-insured through a National City subsidiary.

National City said that its remaining $1.6 billion of nonprime loans retained from its former First Franklin unit "are currently not saleable at what management considers an acceptable price due to adverse market conditions."

As a result, National City plans to transfer those loans from its held-for-sale account back into its portfolio. That will likely require a writedown of the asset, the company said. Already, the asset's value has been reduced by $11 million.

To date, National City said that delinquency and loss rates from its remaining First Franklin loans are consistent with the company's year-end loss reserves.

Overall, National City said that credit quality trends in its core commercial and consumer loan portfolios "continue to be stable."

In the same filing, National City said that hedging of its mortgage servicing portfolio, net of hedging, suffered a $45 million pretax loss during the first two months of this year.

In light of the disclosures, two analysts have reduced their first-quarter earnings-per-share estimates for National City by about 10%. National City is ranked as the ninth largest U.S. bank by asset size.

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