Bill Creating Foreclosure Protections for Widows and Heirs Explained in New Video

pic 2 SB 1150

“Red tape foreclosures” are a problem that are continuing to plague surviving homeowners throughout California, according to housing counselors and attorneys.

New legislation introduced by Senator Leno and Senator Galgiani, The Homeowner Survivor Bill of Rights, Senate Bill 1150, would address this problem.

SB 1150 clarifies the responsibilities of a mortgage lender when a borrower dies and passes the home along to a survivor who wishes to assume the home loan. The legislation ensures that heirs receive accurate information about loan assumption and foreclosure prevention programs. It also gives survivors a single point of contact with the lender and the ability to simultaneously apply for loan assumption and modification. SB 1150 is sponsored by the California Alliance for Retired Americans, Housing and Economic Rights Advocates and California Reinvestment Coalition.

A new interview with Kevin Stein, associate director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, explains the problems surviving homeowners are facing and how SB 1150 would address it.

If you would like to learn more after watching the video, visit: www.survivorbillofrights.org

Supporters of SB 1150 include

  • California Association of Retired Americans (co-sponsor)
  • Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (co-sponsor)
  • California Reinvestment Coalition (co-sponsor)
  • Attorney General Kamala Harris
  • AARP California
  • AIDS Legal Referral Panel
  • Bay Area Legal Aid
  • California District Attorneys Association
  • California Nurses Association
  • California Professional Firefighters
  • California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc.
  • California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
  • CALPIRG
  • Capital Impact Partners
  • Community Housing Developers, Inc
  • Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto
  • Consumer Federation of California
  • Courage Campaign
  • Fair Housing of Marin
  • Family Caregiver Alliance
  • Institute on Aging
  • Justice in Aging
  • Legal Services of Northern California
  • Los Angeles County Democractic Party
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights
  • National Housing Law Project
  • Nehemiah Corporation of America
  • Neighborhood Housing Services of LA County
  • Project Sentinel
  • Public Counsel
  • Public Law Center
  • Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center
  • Rural Community Assistance Corporation
  • SEIU California
  • The ARC and United Cerebral Palsy California Collaboration
  • United Domestic Workers of America, AFSCME Local 3930, AFL-CIO
  • Unite Here
  • Western Center on Law and Poverty

AB244 bill: California legislators want to require mortgage servicers to speak to widowed homeowners but Chamber of Commerce, bank industry oppose

Thanks for the coverage Justice League!

Justice League

Hat tip from CAReinvestCoalition!

As Capital & Mainexplained: “It happens every spring: The start of baseball season and the Chamber of Commerce’s assault on legislation designed to improve the lives of Californians – many of them our most vulnerable residents.”

This time, The California Chamber of Commerce put Assembly Bill 244 on their “Jobs Killer” list. AB 244 is a bill that would help even the playing field for grieving spouses who are trying to speak to their mortgage servicer about keeping their family home.

If a spouse, partner, or parent, passes away and they were the only person listed on the mortgage, then it can create huge headaches for the surviving family member, in what has been called the “widows and orphan problem.” Despite having a legal interest in the home (many are on the title to the home), they are hitting a brick wall when they…

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Surviving Heirs Testify About Their Experiences with Financial Freedom and OneWest Bank Foreclosures

At a public hearing in February, widowed homeowners and surviving heirs were afforded the opportunity to speak about their experiences with Financial Freedom, a reverse mortgage servicer owned by OneWest Bank.  The focus of the hearing was the proposed merger of OneWest Bank with CIT Group.  If you’d like more information about this merger, visit CRC’s Merger Resource Page.  And, if you are a Financial Freedom customer, or you are a family member whose dealing with Financial Freedom, you may want to share your experiences with the Federal Reserve and OCC (they are making the decision about this merger), and you may also want to file a CFPB complaint. Please note: Any submission about the merger will become part of the public record and others will be able to see your submission.

1. Michael Allen’s story: “OneWest Bank (OWB) did not provide a Single Point of Contact nor provide any guidance or instruction to help me satisfy the loan. I initiated all calls to OWB and spoke to a different person with a different story and different reason to deny my requests.”

2. Elizabeth Lavullo’s story: “OneWest Bank refused to honor my letter of intent to repay the loan and refused to grant me the HUD authorized time to obtain a new loan.”

3. Julie Cheney’s story: “I was a Successor Trustee of my parents Trust when they were sold a Financial Freedom reverse mortgage they didn’t need, while my dad was in the last month of his life, with terminal cancer, on narcotic pain medication, and my mother had Alzheimer’s disease and could not complete a sentence.”

4. Noreen O’More’s story: “We called, emailed and faxed every week or two for status.  OWB kept delaying with one excuse after another for more than 18 months.”

5. Lisa Renard’s story: “Because of OWB’s refusal to refund any of the fraudulent funds, Mrs. Rinard was forced to live the last years of her life on Medi-Cal in a nursing home funded by taxpayer dollars.”

6. Karen Hunziker’s story:   Additionally OWB has failed to provide a Single Point of Contact. This creates a communication maze impossible to navigate for the consumer to get customer support or guidance.

One day, I called 5 times to verify I received the 90 day extension OWB promised in writing. I spoke to 5 different people all with a different story. In part, I was told:

• OWB didn’t receive the documents faxed multiple times,
• The documents needed to be reviewed by their legal department,
• I had to call back in 5 days
• I used up all my extensions.
• I didn’t get the documents in on time,
• The last person told me my property was scheduled for auction in 30 days.

At all times OWB refused to put any phone conversation in writing.

7. Sandy Jolley’s testimony:  “No couple thinks on their own ‘let’s get a reverse mortgage and take one of us off title so when the other dies the survivor can be evicted.'”

8. Jose Graulau’s story: “On 12/31 (New Year’s Eve) AlState Process Servers claimed they were hired by OWB to investigate my family and wanted documentation of all known and unknown relatives, either alive or deceased, and those born in or out of wedlock.”

9. Rachel Mehlsak’s (attorney at Bet Tzedek) testimony:”Another client I worked with had lived in her home for over 40 years.  She is elderly, disabled, and supports her daughter and four minor grandchildren on just her monthly Social Security income.  After her husband died, she had trouble maintaining her property tax payments, and OneWest, the parent company of her reverse mortgage lender, Financial Freedom, threatened to foreclose.

Eventually, OneWest initiated foreclosure against the client’s home one month sooner than HUD guidelines required.  OneWest did so even though HUD had just announced a 60-day extension of its foreclosure timeframes for surviving spouses like my client and even though I had asked Financial Freedom multiple times to postpone the foreclosure proceedings.  I was able to help the client obtain a one-month extension of the foreclosure – an outcome she wouldn’t have received without representation – but ultimately OneWest went through with the foreclosure sale.  Three generations of my client’s family were kicked out of their home for less than $1300 owed to Financial Freedom.”

 

Why Are Advocates Opposing the OneWest and CIT Group Merger?

Editor’s note: When the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency announced they were holding a public hearing on the proposed merger of OneWest Bank and CIT Group, the regulators also extended the comment period on this merger.  CRC’s fifth letter, outlining why CRC continues to oppose this merger, is included below.  For earlier letters, visit our Merger Resource page.  To see pictures from a rally held during the hearing, click here.

February 24, 2015

Re: CRC’s 5th comment letter: Continuing opposition to CIT Group application to acquire IMB and OneWest Bank and to merge OneWest and CIT Bank

 Dear Chairs Yellen and Gruenberg, Directors Watt and Cordray, Comptroller Curry, and Secretary Castro,

The California Reinvestment Coalition writes this fifth comment letter expressing our continuing opposition to the proposed acquisition of IMB and OneWest Bank (OWB) by CIT Group. OneWest has not met, and will not meet, community credit needs, and the Applicants have not established that this merger will provide a public benefit.

This letter is written to provide additional information for the public record, to inform the deliberations of the FRB and OCC, and to raise continuing concerns about the negative impacts of OneWest Bank on California communities.

The California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC), based in San Francisco, is a non-profit membership organization of community based non-profit organizations and public agencies across the state of California. We work with community-based organizations to promote the economic revitalization of California’s low-income communities and communities of color through access to equitable and low cost financial services. CRC promotes increased access to credit for affordable housing and community economic development, and to financial services for these communities.

Continuing unanswered questions: HUD FOIA Request

As noted previously, there are still many unanswered questions regarding this merger and these institutions. CRC still awaits a substantive response to our FOIA request to HUD to gather information about HUD’s oversight and policies relating to reverse mortgages, and the servicing practices of Financial Freedom in particular.

Specifically, we have sought basic information about the number, nature and resolution of complaints filed by consumers with HUD against Financial Freedom. We have also sought data on the number of foreclosures processed by Financial Freedom since OneWest took over ownership, including the number of such foreclosures processed against non-borrower surviving spouses, as well as the number of loans being serviced by Financial Freedom where a younger spouse was not listed on the loan and is therefore at risk of foreclosure.

If the FDIC, OCC, or Federal Reserve consumer complaint departments would like to share data on complaints they’ve received (as consumers aren’t always aware which regulator to turn to), then we would welcome that transparency.  We note that in the cases of Michelle Ayers and her sister Mary Dambacher, from North Fort Meyers, Florida- (surviving family members who encountered a host of servicing issues with Financial Freedom), they report being sent on a wild goose chase- not just by Financial Freedom, but also by the regulatory agencies where they sought help.  They started at HUD, where they were referred to a housing counseling agency, which couldn’t help because the loan was a reverse mortgage, then referred to the Florida Office of Financial Regulation which referred them to the OCC, which then directed them to the CFPB.

This FOIA request seeks information that must be considered by the banking regulators in order to determine whether OneWest bank is meeting the credit needs, and the convenience and needs, of its communities. How can the Federal Reserve and the OCC determine that OneWest is meeting the needs of its communities if it does not know how many foreclosures were processed by OneWest and its affiliates? This information should be part of the public record.

And yet, our FOIA request has been stalled as HUD has chosen to deny our request for a fee waiver on the grounds that CRC has a “commercial interest” in the information. This is difficult for our nonprofit organization to understand and accept. This denial and the delay in releasing the FOIA requested data merely add to the sense that with regard to this merger, there is something to hide, and the regulators, rather than increasing transparency for communities, are making details of this merger more opaque.

Bank supporters and opponents

 CRC wishes to supplement the public record to reflect that OneWest’s CEO has sought support from his Wall Street contacts and business partners in order to tout his message regarding his own management performance and desire not to have public hearings.

A few weeks ago, Bloomberg reported that OneWest CEO Joseph Otting had emailed community groups and Wall Street contacts, urging recipients to support the bank’s application by sending a letter to Fed Chair Janet Yellen.[1]

The draft letter of support found on the OneWest website and presumably drafted under the direction of CEO Joseph Otting reads as follows:

Dear Chair Yellen, President Dudley and Comptroller Curry,

I am writing to offer my support for the pending OneWest and CIT merger. OneWest serves as a strong source of capital and banking services to the Southern California community. This merger will retain and create new jobs in California. I believe the management team and OneWest have demonstrated its commitment to our community and to serving the needs of not only their clients but the community at large and due to this, I do not believe there is a need for a public hearing.

The draft email indicates that proposed commenters “believe the management team and OneWest have demonstrated its commitment to our community and to serving the needs of not only their clients but the community at large…”

As Bloomberg reports this email went out to Wall Street contacts, CRC wonders how knowledgeable about community needs these commenters will be, and how much weight the regulators will give these comments.

Further, CRC understands that several of the “supporters” are actual business partners and employees of OneWest. How objectively can these “supporters” speak to the bank’s service to the community, and how much weight will the bank regulators give to these comments?

Similarly, certain community groups are supporting the bank in its application, and have indicated they are developing partnerships with the bank.

In the application by Banc of California to purchase Banco Popular branches, the OCC requested and Banc of California provided a public list of grants to non-profit organizations over the prior two (2) years by month, organization and amount. The regulators should request the same of OneWest Bank – that it identify, by month, the level of support to all organizations receiving grants or investments or contracts, and for what purpose, for the last 2 years. Applicant submitted somewhat similar information in a letter dated October 2014, but the information appears to be incomplete, is broken out only by year and not month, and it is unclear how far into 2014 the data go. OneWest should be required to complete this exercise through February 2015, providing, by month through February 2015, a list of all groups with which it has a funding, investing or contractual relationship since the time it began to promote this proposed merger.

And for the record, CRC notes that approximately 100 organizations from California and from around the country are opposing this merger, as well as over 21,000 individuals and counting, making this, most likely, the most opposed bank merger in history.

CRC thanks the regulators for agreeing to hold one public hearing on this merger, which we believe reflects a recognition of the extent of the opposition to this merger and the many serious issues at play.

Financial Freedom: New complaint data and continuing concerns

CRC review of CFPB consumer complaint data reveals that approximately 150 complaints were filed against OneWest noting concerns with the sub product “reverse mortgage”. This represents roughly 12% of the number of reverse mortgage complaints that CFPB analyzed in its recent study on reverse mortgages.[2] Again, these CFPB complaints are likely completely independent of any complaints field against Financial Freedom with HUD, a more logical place for consumers to complain given HUD’s oversight of HECMs. We look forward to understanding how many complaints against Financial Freedom have been filed with HUD, though given the story cited earlier in this letter, we also suspect that the number of complaints actually filed is lower than the number of people who would like to complain if they had the time, capacity, and knowledge of where to complain, and if they were directed to the correct regulator.

(Further, a recent visit to the CFPB consumer complaint database now reveals a total of 1,226 complaints filed against OneWest, significantly more than we had noted in earlier comment letters.)

OneWest’s Financial Freedom reverse mortgage servicer affiliate continues to be the subject of reports suggesting potential abuses and community harm. On January 8, 2015, Fox 4 in North Fort Meyers, Florida,  reported on the case of Mary Damacher, who chained her sister Michelle Ayers to a pipe in the home that was first purchased by their grandparents, then passed down to her mother, until Financial Freedom foreclosed on them. The sisters attempted to purchase the home, but were reportedly rebuffed in their efforts by Financial Freedom.

“I’ve been preapproved for a mortgage and had all the paperwork taken care of to repurchase the home, and basically Financial Freedom and One West Bank has refused me the right to purchase my home,” Mary said.[3]

This case, and the others cited in prior letters, raise serious questions and concerns about how well Financial Freedom is complying with existing obligations to serve reverse mortgage borrowers, surviving spouses AND, as here, heirs who have certain rights to purchase the home.

Specifically:

  • What is HUD doing to oversee Financial Freedom foreclosures with regard to borrowers, surviving spouses, and heirs?
  • Will OneWest submit any losses from this foreclosure for reimbursement under the loss share agreement? How does the FDIC determine whether loss share reimbursement submissions by OneWest reflect losses suffered only after OneWest did all it could to mitigate them, and certainly only after OneWest followed existing laws and regulations? Is the FDIC aware of any situations or cases where OneWest Bank submitted a claim for costs related to a foreclosure, but then due to legal action or legal settlements, OneWest Bank later returned the reimbursement to the FDIC, or should have reimbursed the FDIC? As an example, consider the story of the San Luis Obispo couple, where OneWest eventually offered to settle for what was reported as a “seven figure sum.”  Had OneWest already requested reimbursement for any losses on this mortgage from the FDIC?  Is the FDIC fully confident it never paid out shared loss reimbursements for faulty foreclosures like this one?
  • How does the OCC, as OneWest’s primary regulator, oversee compliance issues with regard to Financial Freedom, and how do improper foreclosures via OneWest or Financial Freedom, impacting borrowers, surviving spouses, heirs and other family members impact (if at all) the OCC’s determination as to whether OneWest is servicing its communities under the Community Reinvestment Act?
  • How will the OCC and the Fed investigate and consider improper foreclosures by OneWest and Financial Freedom in determining whether this merger, absent any substantial conditions imposed, will provide a public benefit, as required?

An audit of Financial Freedom foreclosures and other non-home retention loss mitigation outcomes is necessary. In the meantime, Financial Freedom should not be allowed to process further foreclosures without going through a “notice and objection” process whereby an independent third party can confirm that proposed foreclosures are proper. A similar structure was created by the Massachusetts Attorney General in enforcing servicing obligations by Fremont Investment and Loan.[4]

Merger Decision Should Await Next FDIC Loss Share Compliance Review:

In a letter to CRC dated February 5, 2015, the FDIC reiterates that it believes it has no authority in the approval process relating to this merger, that estimates of future payments under the Loss Share Agreement are projections and subject to change, and that OneWest “is not out of compliance” with the loss share agreement.[5]

Importantly, the letter also indicates the next compliance review is scheduled to commence in May of 2015, in approximately three months.

We urge the FDIC to conduct an extensive audit of OneWest’s performance under the loss share agreement, and to make the results of this audit public, including providing a description of the extent to which the FDIC is able to verify that all OneWest foreclosures for which OneWest seeks reimbursement under the loss share agreement could not have been avoided through the provision of a loan modification or otherwise and were the result of OneWest and affiliates fully complying with all relevant loss mitigation and foreclosure prevention laws and rules, including importantly, provisions within the California Homeowners Bill of Rights that address dual-tracking, Single Point of Contact, and other servicer practices that push people into foreclosure.

CRC continues to believe that the FDIC audit and compliance review process does not provide sufficient due diligence to ensure that all OWB foreclosures were proper and unavoidable. This is most likely also true for the foreclosure oversight currently provided by the Federal Reserve and OCC for its regulated servicers and trustees.

Further, we strongly urge the Federal Reserve and the OCC to await the results of the FDIC audit before deciding on this Application. With all of the concern that has been raised about OneWest’s foreclosure practices, including testimony that will be presented at the public hearing on February 26, awaiting the FDIC audit (and response from HUD to our FOIA request) is the only prudent course.

        Systemic Risk and lobbying

CRC has maintained that the potential failure of CIT and OneWest poses a systemic risk to the financial system under current standards.

In 2008, another entity expressed concerned about CIT failing, saying, “CIT, … its demise poses a systemic danger because that would jeopardize 760 of its manufacturing customers and cause serious harm to more than 300,000 retailers, according to Bloomberg.”[6]

The entity that held that view in 2008 was none other than CIT Group itself as it sought a rescue from the federal government. This request was turned down and $2.3 billion in TARP funds was not enough to save CIT from declaring bankruptcy and wiping out its obligation to repay TARP. Is CIT truly LESS interconnected now than it was in 2008 when its interconnectedness led to bankruptcy?  If CIT were allowed to merge with OneWest, the resulting institution would be even larger, as would the risks created for communities, and possibly taxpayers as well.

Perhaps that was then and this is now, and CIT is no longer worried about systemic risk.

But according to Center for Responsive Politics, CIT Group spent $4,920,000 over the last two years on lobbying, or more than $6,400 a day. And one of the issues CIT lobbied on most heavily was – systemic risk.[7]

We urge the regulators to tread carefully in deciding whether to approve a new SIFI comprised of two institutions that failed in the recent past, and which rely on significant public subsidy.

Circumvention of CRA: NOT reinvesting where depositors reside

CRC has long argued that depository financial institutions must reinvest where their depositors live and are sending in deposits. The CRA has been circumvented and communities have suffered from a lack of investment by institutions like Capital One, ING, Countrywide Bank, Charles Schwab Bank, H&R Block Bank, etc.

CIT Bank similarly collects deposits from throughout the country, but reinvests primarily in its Salt Lake City assessment area. It would be interesting to know what percentage of CIT Bank’s billions in deposits actually originate from Salt Lake City, and how many communities are sending in more deposits to CIT Bank than are coming from the Bank’s lone assessment area.

The proposed CITBNA’s CRA Plan went from bad to worse when it determined that ALL of its deposits, including internet deposits originating from throughout the country, would be assigned to the Los Angeles MSA.

While this might seem like a good thing for Los Angeles, such circumvention of the CRA has only hurt Los Angeles and our state in the past and will likely do so in the future.

CITBNA must reinvest in its top deposit markets, even if outside of California, and the regulators should make this so. This issue is all the more pressing in that OneWest maintains a poor branch presence in LMI communities (its 15% of branches in LMI neighborhoods is HALF the industry average in California), and promises to move towards mobile banking as a way of serving LMI communities. We do not believe this will be a successful approach, and if all mobile banking deposits are assigned to one assessment area, we do not believe this will be consistent with the CRA. A recent report by the FDIC notes that, “…there is little evidence that the emergence of new electronic channels for delivering banking services has substantially diminished the need for traditional branch offices where banking relationships are built.”[8]

One Los Angeles based leader who runs a community based organization that would stand to benefit from the Bank’s proposal to reinvest mainly in Los Angeles had the following to say about the Bank’s plan to reinvest deposits from other communities into Los Angeles:

“While we’d love the $$$ for southern California, I’m reminded of how Dorothy Richardson and her neighbors in Pittsburgh first staged a series of “sit-ins” at local banks because of the redlining in their neighborhood.  Every neighborhood matters.  Every family matters.  Out of the strength of her convictions, Dorothy succeeded and the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation and NeighborWorks Network were formed.  We must stand for what is right on behalf of all of our neighbors to ensure justice for everyone.  Seems fitting during Black History Month.”

Additionally, the Applicant’s proposed CRA Plan notes that it will designate only one CRA assessment area for full scope review. We note that City National Bank and East West Bank, two banks that have been identified as peers of OneWest, have three and two full scope review assessment areas, respectively. A bank as big as the proposed CITBNA should have more than one full scope review assessment area.

       Conclusion

The regulators must properly weigh the comments of supporters and opponents, scrutinize the foreclosure practices of OneWest Bank and Financial Freedom, fully analyze the extent to which this merger threatens financial stability, and require the bank to negotiate and develop a CRA Plan commensurate with its size and national deposit base, before rubber stamping this proposed merger. We believe this transaction represents a threat to financial stability with huge costs and subsidies, and no public benefit.

Thank you for your consideration of these views. Please feel free to contact me at (415) 864-3980 if you wish to discuss this matter further.

Very Truly Yours,

Kevin Stein

Paulina Gonzalez

cc:           Jan Owen, Commissioner, California Department of Business Oversight

Ivan J. Hurwitz, Vice President, FRB NY, comments.applications@ny.frb.org

David Finnegan, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, WE.Licensing@occ.treas.gov

All COMMENTERS

[1] Matthew Monks and Elizabeth Dexheimer, “OneWest Seeks Wall Street’s Help Lobbying Yellen on CIT,” Bloomberg, January 8, 2015.

[2] The CFPB study reviewed approximately 1200 reverse mortgage complaints that were filed on its website from December 2011 through December 2104. See, Office of Older Americans, “Snapshot of reverse mortgage complaints: December 2011 – December 2014,” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, February 2014.

[3] Lisa Greenberg, “NFM sisters chained to home to protest reverse mortgage,” Fox4, January 8, 2015, at http://www.jrn.com/fox4now/news/NFM-sisters-chained-to-home-to-protest-reverse-mortgage-287977331.html

[4] Press release, “Attorney General Martha Coakley Reaches $10 Million Settlement with Subprime Lender Fremont Investment and Loan,” June 9, 2009.

[5] FDIC Letter to CRC Re: Application by CIT Group (CIT) to purchase IMB, the parent company of OneWest Bank, National Association (OWB), and to merger CIT Bank into OWB,” February 5, 2015.

[6] Alain Sherter, “CIT Group: Too Small to Save – Or Not,” MONEYWATCH, July 15, 2009.

[7] Open Secretes, “CIT Group,” Center for Responsive Politics, at: http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000024786

[8] Press release, “Branch Banking Remains Prevalent Despite Growth of Online and Mobile Banking,“ FDIC, February 19, 2015.

Sandy Jolley Testimony on Abuses by Financial Freedom Reverse Mortgage Servicer, Owned by OneWest Bank

The testimony of Sandy Jolley, a reverse mortgage suitability and abuse consultant, about the proposed OneWest and CIT Group merger is featured in its entirety below. If you were unable to attend the hearing, CRC live-blogged it here and you may also find our CIT Group/OneWest Merger resource page helpful as well. Pictures are available here.

TESTIMONY OF SANDY JOLLEY

FEDERAL RESERVE BANK, LOS ANGELES BRANCH

My name is Sandy Jolley.  I am a Reverse Mortgage Suitability and Abuse Consultant and Certified HUD Counselor. 

Reverse Mortgage servicing provides billions of dollars in revenue to OneWest Bank (OWB).  Of the 6 major loan servicers OWB holds position 1 through 5 as the worst servicer by far.

My testimony illustrates OneWest Bank’s consistent and deliberate failure to comply with Federal Regulations, State Laws, and Consumer Protections in the servicing and foreclosure practices of Reverse Mortgages.

Repayment and Single Point of Contact

The most common maturity event is the death of the borrower. The family is grieving when they get a repayment letter that is confusing, contradictory, deceptive, and frankly no consumer could understand what this letter says.

The repayment letter makes it critical to have a Single Point of Contact and Customer Support Staff trained in:

a) the regulatory requirements,

b) the maturity/foreclosure process,

c) to provide guidance, and

d) to help the consumer understand and exercise their rights and options.

All OWB documentation states a Single Point of Contact (SPOC) will guide the consumer through the process, yet as you will hear today, that is not happening.

In addition, the “customer support” representatives at Financial Freedom also:

  • Obstruct consumer efforts to repay the loan balance or the 95% option;
  • Refuse to grant HUD authorized time extensions;

Financial Freedom also:

  • Makes a legal determination on the validity of consumer documents
  • Refuse to speak to heirs without proof of legal authority.
  • Require the consumer to record their Trust – a violation of consumer privacy rights, state laws and federal regulations.

Accelerates foreclosure and auction

  • Initiate foreclosure as soon as 60 to 90 days after the death of the borrower:
  • Use State laws to violate HUD regulations to accelerate foreclosure.
  • Auction property when consumer has provided proof funding or contract for sale.
  • Charge unauthorized legal and foreclosure related fees caused by acceleration of foreclosure;
  • Claim Non-borrowing spouses have fewer rights than other heirs.

NON-BORROWING SPOUSE

The non-borrowing spouse issue is a mess and not because of the consumer.

We have all heard the commercials “A reverse mortgage is a safe government insured loan used to supplement retirement and allows seniors to stay in their homes until they die”.

No couple thinks on their own “let’s get a reverse mortgage and take one of us off title so when the other dies the survivor can be evicted.” 

This is a problem caused by HUD, by the Lender at origination and made worse by the OWB practice of accelerating foreclosure.  ML 2015-03 excludes virtually all surviving spouses from relief as evidenced by Secretary Castro’s letter in my supplemental documentation.

I urge regulators, HUD and OWB to come together in a responsible way.

Put a moratorium on foreclosures for Non-Borrowing Spouses until HUD has a policy that is a clear solution for Surviving Spouses. 

  1. I urge regulators to deny the application of OWB and Cit Financial.
  2. Investigate, audit, and review individual OWB Reverse Mortgage Loan Files:
    • for the servicing and foreclosure deficiencies I have put forward
    • to ensure compliance with existing laws and regulations and especially consumer rights.

The supplemental documentation submitted with my testimony supports the facts of my testimony.

SB 1150: New Legislation Would Clarify That Homeowner Bill of Rights Protects Widows Too

AB 244 to Protect Widowed Homeowners

The California Homeowner Bill of Rights (HBOR), a law widely credited with evening the playing field between homeowners and their mortgage servicers in California, has also been duplicated by Nevada and Minnesota.

 

2016  Update: New legislation introduced by Mark Leno and Cathleen Galgiani provides critical protections for widowed spouses and other survivors who assume home ownership responsibilities when the primary mortgage holder passes away. The Homeowner Survivor Bill of Rights, (Senate Bill 1150) closes a loophole in California law that fails to provide surviving spouses and children important protections against foreclosure that are available to other homeowners.  

Visit www.survivorbillofrights.org to learn more about this important new bill.

Currently, these homeowners can find themselves caught in a “Catch 22” if they seek a loan modification. Servicers inform them that they can’t be considered for a modification until they assume the mortgage. But, they won’t let them assume the mortgage unless they demonstrate that they can afford it. As a result, mortgage payments are missed, fees rack up, and foreclosure can be the unnecessary outcome.

A few stories below illuminate this problem:

In 2012, the Bookers contacted the non-profit legal assistance firm Housing and Economic Rights Advocates for assistance. Attorney Lisa Sitkins say the Bookers tried to make a $7,500 payment to catch up on the loan, but the bank refused it. “Then they proceed to apply over and over and over again for a loan modification and every time they would get rejected and be told that the house was not ‘owner occupied,'” Sitkins said.. Michael Finney. ABC7News. October 13, 2014. 7 On Your Side Helps With Widow Foreclosure Nightmare

“Ms. Bates, 70, is caught in a foreclosure trap that is ensnaring widows across America: she cannot get help lowering her payments until her name is added to the mortgage note, but the lender says she must be current on payments before that can happen.”  Read complete story here: Mortgage Catch Pushes Widows Into Foreclosure (Jessica Silver-Greenberg, New York Times, 12/1/2012)

“ELK GROVE (CBS13) —The mortgage was in her late husband George’s name. The decorated war veteran died in 2007.  Daughter, April, says she sent Green Tree his death certificate and the grant deed with her mother’s name on it, but says Green Tree will not work with them.”  Read complete story here:  Call Kurtis Investigates: Surviving Family Members Losing Homes Left By Loved Ones (CBS Sacramento, 11/1/2013)

“WASHINGTON — Billions of dollars in foreclosure settlements between big banks and government regulators haven’t helped Laura Biggs. The California woman is scheduled to lose her home nine days before Christmas because her mortgage company concluded that the house is no longer the primary residence of her husband, who’s been dead since 2003.”   Read complete story here: “Bank might foreclose on home because late husband isn’t residing there” (Kevin Hall, McClatchyWashington Bureau, December 9, 2013).

To read the full press release about AB 244, click here: New California Bill Clarifies that Widows are also Protected by California Homeowner Bill of Rights

To shed further light on this issues, Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA) has created an email address.  For widowed homeowners, or other heirs in similar situations, they can contact HERA via email at: familyhome@heraca.org.  HERA staff will make contact with each person that submits a story to that email address.

Seven Home Mortgage Disclosure Act Updates the CFPB Should Make

Home Mortgage Disclosure Act

In October 2014, the California Reinvestment Coalition and 40 additional California organizations sent a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, urging updates to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act that will increase transparency while allowing regulators, advocates, and industry to identify troubling trends, such as widowed homeowners being unnecessarily pushed into foreclosure.  The recommendations are included below:

Monica Jackson
Office of the Executive Secretary
Consumer Finance Protection Bureau
1700 G. St. NW
Washington DC 20552

RE: Docket No. CFPB-2014-0019: California community group comments

Dear Ms. Jackson:

The undersigned community groups submit this letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in response to the recent proposal to amend the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) regulations.

We appreciate the great care that CFPB has taken to craft this proposal, and that the proposal suggests enhancements to HMDA that go beyond the requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act, as well as CFPB’s recent improvements to the HMDA website in response to recommendations by community groups.

At the same time, we have a number of concerns with this proposal, and feel that it does not go far enough to ensure that the data reported to the public meets the stated goals of HMDA; namely, to help the public determine if financial institutions are serving community housing needs, assist public officials in deciding how to distribute public investments, and identify possible discriminatory lending patterns. Specifically, our concerns with this proposal include:

1. The failure to address key priorities, such as:

a.The inclusion of loan modification data as required reporting;

b.The disaggregation of the overly broad “Asian” race category;

c.The absence of any fields relating to language access, including (at a minimum) American Sign Language, Braille, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese;

d.Whether a borrower will own the property with a non-borrowing party (the widows and orphans/successors in interest issue); and

e.Whether the borrower received pre-purchase housing counseling.

2. While proposing major advancements in some areas, the proposal does not go far enough:

a.Loans for multifamily rental housing should document the level of affordability of all units, include the number of bedrooms, and include construction lending;

b.Commercial loan and HELOC coverage should require reporting on whether a home secured loan was taken out for a “small business” purpose.

3.The reluctance of CFPB to require automatic disclosure to the public of all data collected pursuant to HMDA and the undue credence given to industry’s purported concerns about consumer privacy.

We discuss these concerns in greater detail below.

Loan Modifications: The performance of financial institutions in modifying loans is and will continue to be a major factor in determining whether they are meeting local housing needs and complying with fair housing and fair lending laws. We urge the CFPB to include in its final rule the requirement that financial institutions report data on all loan modification applications, denials, and modification terms, broken out by race, ethnicity, gender and age of applicants and census tract; and that this data be publicly disclosed.

The CFPB has the authority to require detailed reporting of loan modification data.  The HMDA statute speaks to the Bureau’s broad authority to provide for any “adjustments … for any class of transactions” (see 12 USC §2804) it deems proper to serve the goals of the Act.  Loan modifications represent the very kind of transaction Congress contemplated when crafting the Act, as they go to the heart of current efforts to serve the housing needs of our communities and to protect homeownership and equity in our neighborhoods.

The federal Home Affordable Mortgage Program (HAMP) and recent Department of Justice settlement agreements with large servicers are evidence of the prominence of loan modifications as part of federal housing policy and enforcement.

This data will also help answer the very serious question of whether discrimination is occurring in the foreclosure prevention context.  The California Reinvestment Coalition and the National Housing Resource Center have conducted surveys of nonprofit housing counseling agencies serving thousands of consumers a month, and found that housing counselors report repeatedly that borrowers of color are receiving worse loss mitigation outcomes than white borrowers.

Similarly, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found that people of color in Washington, D.C., were more likely to go into foreclosure, even after controlling for borrower, loan, and neighborhood characteristics.   NCRC also surveyed homeowners seeking loan modifications and found that servicers pushed African American borrowers to foreclosure faster than white borrowers, and that white HAMP-eligible borrowers were more likely to receive a loan modification than African American and Latino HAMP-eligible borrowers.

Community groups nationally have decried the uneven distribution of loan modification, including loan modification relief offered as part of implementation of the National Mortgage Settlement and more recent Department of Justice settlement agreements with JPMorgan Chase, Citibank and Bank of America. Indeed, in March of last year, over 100 groups under the umbrella of Americans for Financial Reform signed a letter to the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight calling for greater transparency and accountability to ensure that banks comply with their fair lending obligations, and remedy the damage of foreclosures in communities of color and other low-to-moderate income communities.

Assisting distressed borrowers and saving homes from foreclosure is integral to reviving the housing market. Yet, a February General Accounting Office (GAO) report that analyzed nonpublic HAMP data confirmed the concerns of community groups in finding statistically significant differences in the rate of denials and cancellations of trial modifications, and in the potential for re-defaults of loan modifications for Limited English Proficient and African-American borrowers and other populations.

Although the public disclosures are currently limited, the HAMP program does in fact require loan modification reporting and disclosure with the added requirement that servicers report data by race and ethnicity in the public disclosure. This is an important precedent.

Directly consistent with the statutory purposes of HMDA, local governments are keen to understand whether, where and to whom loan modification relief is offered so that they can determine if financial institutions are meeting the needs of their communities and to identify whether further policy responses are necessary. As one example, the City and County of San Francisco, in its Request for Proposals for the city’s banking and credit card business, requests bank applicants to provide local data on the race, ethnicity, and census tract of foreclosure filings and loan modifications, broken out by type of modification.

The San Francisco experience suggests not only that local governments are interested in such data, but also that banks are capable of providing it. To its credit, Bank of America has provided such data to the City and County. But all financial institutions should report this data to all jurisdictions via HMDA.

The data to be reported for loan modifications should be substantially the same as data currently collected under HMDA, in that loan modifications—like mortgages—are transactions which are secured by homes and require underwriting. Ideally, all loan modifications should be reported separately in HMDA data as a separate category under “loan purpose,” or possibly “loan type.”

If reporting in the current HMDA database is not feasible, we urge the CFPB to collect and publicly disclose loan modification information separately. Federal regulators are capable of this type of reporting; for example, the FFIEC currently does separate data collecting and public disclosure of Primary Mortgage Insurance (PMI).

Disaggregating Asian American Pacific Islander Communities in HMDA Data: The HMDA data on race and ethnicity has been ineffective in capturing the diversity of experiences of Asian American and Pacific Islander borrowers. While the HMDA data overall show that “Asian” borrowers tend to experience outcomes at least as favorable as whites, some sub-groups within the AAPI population experience less success in accessing homeownership and staving off foreclosure. We ask the CFPB to require the disaggregation of this data to better reflect the experiences of households within the AAPI community.

A 2007 report by the Census Bureau, entitled, “The American Community: Asians  2004,” part of the American Community Survey report series, analyzed experiences of several subcategories of Asian American families, including: Asian, Bangladeshi, Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Malaysian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, Vietnamese, and other Asian. The report noted various differences in experiences for these groups, including differences in owner occupancy and home value.

We support the analysis of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development that a workable, federal precedent for disaggregating the broad  “Asian” race category exists in Section 4302 of the Affordable Care Act, which calls for data reporting for Asian subcategories which include Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Other Asian, as well as Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander subcategories including Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan, and other Pacific Islander.

HMDA should require disaggregated data for “Asians” that allow borrowers to identify as Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Thai or Vietnamese American, amongst other subgroups.

Capturing Language Access. Relatedly, immigrant and Limited English Proficient borrowers and communities have been preyed upon by unscrupulous brokers, lenders and loan servicers over the last several years with painful results. While Census data show that 18 percent of Americans speak languages other than English in their homes, almost 40 percent of Californians fall into this category; more than half of this population speaks English less than “very well.”   Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Korean are spoken by approximately 83 percent of all Californians who speak a language other than English.

In the summer of 2006, a series of borrowers and housing counselors testified at Federal Reserve Board hearings held in San Francisco regarding the then-increasing prevalence of “bait-and-switch” tactics perpetrated on borrowers who negotiated their loans in a non-English language but received English-only documents with less favorable terms than promised.

The California legislature responded to this very real dynamic by passing a law meant to require a translation of most financial documents when the contract was negotiated in any of the five most-spoken non-English languages spoken in the state.  Significant evidence shows that many lenders continue to fail to comply with the statute.  Among the results of CRC’s housing counselling surveys was that over 60 percent of responding agencies stated that they commonly saw non-English speakers (who presumably negotiated their loans in a non-English language) who did not receive any translations of their loan.  In those cases, 60 percent of the agencies noted that the loan terms that these Limited English Proficient borrowers actually received were less favorable than what they had been promised, and 65 percent reported that the loan was unaffordable when made to the borrower.  In another survey, this one by Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, 40 percent of Spanish-speaking homeowners reported that they did not fully understand the terms of their loan documents.

The February 2014 GAO report discussed above found statistically significant disparities in the rate of loan modification denials, cancellations, and re-defaults for LEP borrowers and other protected groups as compared to non-Hispanic white borrowers after analyzing certain loan modification data under the HAMP program.

To help address these problems, HMDA should be enhanced to require the reporting of loan data that include:

·The primary language spoken by the loan or loan mod applicant;

·The language in which the loan or loan modification application and contract were negotiated;

·The language of the loan documents.

Widows Data. We propose a data field be crafted to capture whether there is a co-owner of the property who is not on the loan, or where that person co-owns the property with someone who signs the deed of trust as a “guarantor.”  Usually the other person is a spouse.  This phenomenon is not uncommon, particularly among limited English speaking families and families of color, and can cause significant problems upon divorce or the death of one spouse.  The practice could be a sign that the broker or originator is railroading the borrower into specific loan products, or that the broker or lender is wrongfully pressuring spouses to remove one spouse from title to make the broker’s or underwriter’s job easier.

Creating such a field would be consistent with the CFPB’s guidance on successors in interest, and similar concern about this issue as expressed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the HAMP guidance and interpretive letters.

The problem of successors in interest and non-borrower spouses will only grow as the population ages. These data are especially important and relevant as the CFPB here proposes to require the reporting of reverse mortgages, where the successors in interest dilemma is all too real.

Housing Counseling. Pre-purchase housing counseling can have a significant impact on a borrower’s ability to attain, and maintain homeownership, while avoiding predators who would seek to siphon off fees and equity. We agree with the National Housing Resource Center HMDA data should include data fields relating to counseling type (counseling or education), counseling mode (in-person, phone, online) and counseling agency HUD ID.

Other concerns. We observe that though a stated goal of HMDA is to identify discriminatory lending patterns, HMDA data do not track all protected groups under various fair housing and fair lending laws. In particular, we are concerned about the growing anecdotal evidence and cases relating to discrimination against disabled persons, including where disability can be ascertained by lenders based on source of borrower income. We are also concerned about discrimination against certain religious groups. We urge the CFPB to consider whether to link HMDA to all fair lending protections, and urge CFPB fair lending enforcement staff to be vigorous in ensuring ECOA violations are challenged.

In some respects, the proposal suggests important enhancements to data collection requirements, but does not go far enough.

Loans for Affordable Multifamily Lending: A severely underutilized aspect of HMDA is its multifamily lending data. There has been little to no analysis of this data, most researchers probably do not know it exists, and multifamily lenders may not even know whether and how to report it. It is critical to understanding whether community needs are being met to know whether institutions are supporting the development of affordable rental housing. We are very pleased to see that CFPB is considering requiring lenders to report on whether multifamily loans are for affordable housing, and how many units were constructed through use of the financing.

We further urge the CFPB to require reporting on the number of bedrooms per unit to help determine whether fair lending laws are being followed, include all construction loans which are an important way for lenders to meet community credit needs, and designate whether the developer is a nonprofit organization which is mission driven to serve the community. It is also important to know the level of affordability (for very low-, low-, or moderate-income tenants) for all units of housing. There is a strong precedent for this in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac data collection efforts. Finally, lenders should be required to report on whether such housing is targeted to particular groups, such as seniors or persons with disabilities. These projects can be harder to finance, and the manner in which financial institutions deal with them can raise fair lending issues.

For financial institutions that are financing affordable, multifamily housing, enhancing data elements and transparency would enable them to better claim credit for this important work.

Commercial loans and “small business” purpose. We are pleased that the CFPB recognized that requiring the reporting of Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs) is necessary in the wake of the problematic practices associated with these loan types during the 2000s. The proposal to require reporting of home-secured loans that finance businesses will also enhance our understanding of credit needs. But to illuminate the impact of lending practices on the intersection of small business ownership, homeownership, and jobs, commercial loan and HELOC coverage should require reporting on whether a home secured loan was taken out for a “small business” purpose, alongside “home purchase,” “home improvement,” and “refinance.” This is of particular relevance in immigrant communities, where home-secured lending is often used to help finance a small business and hire workers. We also recommend creation of a “consolidate consumer debt” loan purpose category.

Covered lenders and rural areas. We are grateful that the CFPB contemplates improving HMDA’s coverage of non-depository lenders. However, we are concerned that the proposed 25-loan threshold would eliminate 1,775 depository institutions as HMDA reporters, and we urge the CFPB to reject this proposal as it would significantly reduce coverage of lending in rural counties. The requirement of one loan to trigger HMDA reporting for depository institutions should be retained. Additionally, the 25-loan threshold (for non-depositories as we suggest, or all lenders as proposed) should require reporting by all lenders originating twenty five multi-family or single family loans.

There are a number of welcome enhancements proposed for HMDA reporting. We are particularly pleased to see CFPB go beyond the statutorily required data elements, to propose inclusion of other important data. We support the inclusion of all of these extra data fields.

Universal Loan ID. To the extent that a universal identifier could be created to track a loan across the life of the loan, this would be particularly useful, especially across servicing transfers or note sales.  In a market in which such transfers and sales are common, a standardized number could be useful for the consumer, regulators and for industry.  We would ask that the CFPB provide a common framework for identification, or that each financial institution be required to register its identifier with the CFPB, all other relevant federal regulators and state regulators.  It may be simplest to have a single registration location on-line for such a system. Identifiers should also be made publicly available.

We also support various other proposed enhancements, including:

·More transparency around lending for manufactured housing, which is a significant source of housing in California’s rural communities;

·Reasons for all loan denials;

·Age of borrower, which should be captured by actual age, or age ranges of five years;

·Reverse mortgages;

·Credit scores;

·Points and fees, origination charges, discount points;

·Loan to value and combined loan to value;

·Reporting of race, ethnicity and gender based on visual observation and surname if data are not provided by applicant;

·Nontraditional loan features, such as Interest Only, and balloon payments;

·Expanding occupancy fields to include “investment property with rental income.” This will help uncover the growth of investor purchasers of residential properties and their impact on neighborhoods;

·Considering the role of brokers in the mortgage crisis, the proposals for identifying wholesale and retail channels will make it easier for the public to identify market participants engaged in discriminatory, abusive, or illegal practices;

·Providing for quarterly reporting for larger institutions so the data are more timely and relevant.

Conclusion

We greatly appreciate that the CFPB is proposing to require data reporting beyond Dodd-Frank requirements, as this will greatly assist in monitoring trends in access, affordability, and sustainability of home loans. We urge the agency to consider our additional recommendations—in particular around including loan modifications, disaggregating AAPI data, language access, refining affordable multi-family housing data—and to make all the data publicly available so that the core statutory purposes of HMDA, such as holding lenders accountable for meeting housing needs and identifying discriminatory lending patterns, can be attained.

Thank you for your consideration of our views. Should you have any questions about this letter, please contact Kevin Stein.

Signed,

 

Advocates for Neighbors, Inc.

AnewAmerica Community Corporation

Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program

Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council (A3PCON)

California Coalition for Rural Housing

California Housing Partnership

California/Nevada Community Action Partnership

California Reinvestment Coalition

California Resources and Training (CARAT)

Community Action Agency of Butte County, Inc.

Community HousingWorks

Community Housing Council of Fresno

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto

Consumer Action

East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC)

East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO)

East Los Angeles Community Corporation

East Palo Alto Community Alliance Neighborhood Development Organization (EPA CAN DO)

Fair Housing Council of the San Fernando Valley

Fair Housing of Marin

Housing and Economic Rights Advocates

Housing California

Inland Fair Housing and Mediation Board

Korean Churches for Community Development

Law Foundation of Silicon Valley

Montebello Housing Development Corporation

National CAPACD

National Housing Law Project

Neighborhood Housing Services Silicon Valley

Neighborhood Partnership Housing Services

NeighborWorks Orange County

Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH)

Northbay Family Homes

Oakland Business Development Corporation

Orange County Community Housing Corporation

Project Sentinel

Public Counsel

Rural Community Assistance Corporation

Sacramento Hosing Alliance