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S&P wants mortgage servicer assurance on foreclosures

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Standard & Poor's is giving mortgage servicers until the end of the first quarter to verify justified foreclosure proceedings are following the letter of the law. Mortgage servicers that fail to do so may face downgrades. Many mortgage servicers, including Bank of America (BAC), Wells Fargo (WFC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), and Ally Financial (GJM), suspended foreclosures earlier this year when employees allegedly signed affidavits en masse, without a proper review of the documentation. Standard & Poor's came out in October saying it would monitor the review but would not revise any ratings at that time. Credit rating agency Moody's Investors Service, by contrast, put many servicer ratings up for review. By the end of the first quarter, mortgage servicers must provide documentation to Standard & Poor's or risk having its rank in the program lowered. The ratings agency said this is information they require from every ranked servicer, not just those on credit watch. "We will not take ranking actions based solely on the announcement that a servicer is reviewing its foreclosure processes in order to remediate and/or strengthen its foreclosure affidavit and document attestation processes," analysts said. Servicers must provide written verification from an independent source that foreclosure affidavit preparations are sound and comply with state law. Servicers must identify process workflow and organizational deficiencies in its affidavit procedures and provide data on the extent of the documentation deficiency. S&P also requires servicers to provide written verification of all changes to internal policy and describe procedural changes. "If we determine that, in our view, a servicer's processes are inconsistent with the aforementioned requirements, we will monitor its efforts to remedy the issues and revise our outlook and/or rankings on the servicer as we deem appropriate," according to S&P. Write to Jon Prior.

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