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BofA splits mortgage servicing departments by loan performance

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Bank of America (BAC) created a separate mortgage servicing unit that will handle loans in default, while performing ones will stay in the bank's home loan division, the company said Friday. Regulators, lawmakers consumer advocates and even some players within the industry have been calling for mortgage servicing companies to divide their departments into performing and nonperforming sections as they work toward a new national servicing standard due out in 2012, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency. BofA's announcement could be the first step in that process. Proponents of a new system have also called on servicers to provide a single point of contact at the bank and develop new servicing fees where companies are paid more for the extra work required in working out delinquent loans. The bank appointed Terry Laughlin as the head of the "Legacy Asset Servicing" unit. In this role, Laughlin will oversee the company's mortgage modification and foreclosure programs. Barbara Desoer will continue to manage the company's home loan division, which will service performing loans and hold the bank's origination department, which wrote $306 billion in new loans during 2010. Laughlin will also be in charge of sorting out the bank's mortgage representation and warranties repurchase claims. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and private investors have put major lenders under pressure to buy back defaulted loans they say were not originated to standard. BofA settled with the GSEs late in December to pay $3 billion for their claims. "This alignment allows two strong executives and their teams to continue to lead the strongest home loans business in the industry, while providing greater focus on resolving legacy mortgage issues," BofA CEO Brian Moynihan said. "We believe this will best serve customers — both those seeking homeownership and those who face mortgage challenges — as well as our shareholders and the communities we serve." In 2010, BofA completed 285,000 modifications through both its private programs and the government's Home Affordable Modification program. It has boosted its default servicing staff to 30,000, and it said it will hold 400 events this year to put borrowers in touch with those employees. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter: @JonAPrior

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