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Servicing

Servicers will face regulatory pressure in lieu of lawsuits

Bank lenders may still see litigation claims

Mortgage-related litigation continues to haunt banks and servicers more than five years after the housing meltdown. So how will they handle it?

One case at a time, or one settlement at a time. Either way, the litigation storm has yet to pass.

An expert analyst in the industry told HousingWire that claims will continue with lenders remaining the most obvious target. We haven’t seen servicing litigation per se, he added, so I don’t expect to see that 'kind of stuff' in terms of new lawsuits.

Skepticism is in the air across the board. Well-known banking analyst Dick Bove with Rafferty Capital Markets lamented on CNBC the sudden pushback from regulators against the big banks this year. His fear is a new litigation storm will simply send more work overseas as the financial services community is forced to pullback, fearing lawsuits or aggressive regulatory oversight.

The amounts paid out by the banks so far run the gamut: from relatively small settlements to hundreds of millions of dollars at once.

On Friday, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency announced EverBank’s (EVERagreement to pay approximately $27 million in cash payments to more than 32,000 eligible mortgage borrowers. This is the latest in a slew of lawsuits and settlements tied to legacy mortgage issues in recent months.

At the end of July, UBS Americas announced it will pay $885 million to settle ongoing litigation with the Federal Housing Finance Agency over the bank’s sale of toxic residential mortgage-backed securities to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

And even though the U.S. experienced a tepid housing recovery in 2013, that's not enough to prevent aggressive lawsuits or new cases.

"I don’t believe anyone in the near term expected or expects a dramatic downturn in the number of suits simply because the economy isn’t far enough along yet," said Martin Bryce, partner at Ballard Spahr.

"There's still a fair amount of bad loans out there; and there's still a fair amount of loans in the foreclosure pipeline," he added.

An expert analyst interviewed on the issue added that regulators probably won’t go out and sue anyone, but a new regime is likely to happen. “What you may see down the road is state level litigation in places like California, which has the Homeowners Bill of Rights,” he added.

In the next month or two, more litigation focused on big banks may surface, especially with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman putting a new task force in place for this very reason.

The servicing space will probably face regulatory action in the days ahead, analysts claim. Those actions will most likely revolve around issues impacting consumers and risks inherent in the mortgage servicing transfer process.

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