Opening the Bag of Mortgage Tricks
Published: December 18, 2010
EXCERPT: Last week, a jury in federal district court in Reno, Nev., awarded a group of 50 mortgage investors $5.1 million in punitive damages against defendants in a loan servicing case. Although the numbers in the case aren’t large, its facts are fascinating. Indeed, the case exposed some of the tricks of the servicers’ trade.
The case is also notable because the main defendant, Silar Advisors, was one of the institutions that struck a deal in 2009 with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to buy the assets of a notorious failed bank, IndyMac. Of the $5.1 million in damages awarded in the case, Silar must pay $3 million.
John W. Bickel II, a co-founder of Bickel & Brewer in Dallas, represented the investors in the case. Because he represents an additional 1,450 investors whose loans were serviced by Silar, he said more suits like this one would follow soon.
Loan servicers act as intermediaries between borrowers and their lenders, collecting monthly payments and real estate taxes and forwarding them to the appropriate parties. As long as borrowers meet their payments, such operations typically run smoothly.
Defaults and foreclosures, however, complicate servicers’ duties. As the Silar matter shows, borrower difficulties also open the door to improprieties.
Because loan servicers operate behind the scenes, it’s hard for investors who own these mortgages to monitor fee-gouging. In addition, the servicing contracts make it difficult to fire administrators — under a typical arrangement, investors holding at least 51 percent of the loans must agree on termination.
In short, loan servicing is a perfect setup for administrators who want to take advantage of both borrowers and lenders.
Lots more here:http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/19/business/19gret.html?_r=1