Lessons from the Fairbanks Case

Officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Trade Commission were quick to say that they are not trolling for potential investigation targets at the MBA National Mortgage Servicing Conference here last week.

And the FTC's Joel Winston, associate director for the division of financial practices, said the settlement involving Fairbanks Capital should not be seen as a "best practices" guideline, because the FTC is not in the business of recommending best practices.

In fact, he said some practices that Fairbanks has agreed to refrain from engaging in might be perfectly legal. But given Fairbanks' history of complaints, the company agreed to abandon those practices.

"The FTC's role here, as well as the general government role, is a pretty balanced one," Mr. Winston said. "We have an acute recognition of the risks of overzealous regulation."

Still, he acknowledges that the Fairbanks case offers servicers some lessons about what might get them into trouble. And many of the "red flags" that lenders should watch out for relate to customer service, Mr. Winston said.

Details about the settlement are available on the FTC's website, www.ftc.gov.

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