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Lending

The CFPB's Antonakes changes his tune

"Our goal is not one-sided"

June 19, 2014
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The same regulatory representative who lashed out on the servicing industry for failing to make barely any progress since the financial crisis is starting to harp a different, more pleasing tune toward the mortgage industry.

This is a good thing. 

Back in February, Steven Antonakes, deputy director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, opened a general session at the Mortgage Bankers Association’s National Mortgage Servicing Conference & Expo, saying, "Nearly eight years have passed and I remain deeply disappointed by the lack of progress the mortgage servicing industry has made.”

"There are encouraging signs with unemployment decreasing and the economy growing. However, many homeowners continue to struggle. Nationwide, one in ten homeowners remain underwater and two million households are at a high risk of foreclosure. Our work is far from over,” Antonakes said.

And the brutal honesty was not well received. “This audience is the people who are doing the work. These are not CEOs of large companies; these are heads of servicing operations. They are compliance and quality control individuals coming here to make sure they are staying compliant,” David Stevens, MBA President and CEO, said. 

The news is not that there are problems in the servicing industry, or that there will likely be some more going forward, he explained. 

“But the concern I had with the comments made by Antonakes is his calling it Groundhog Day, as if the industry has not improved,” Stevens said.  

Now just under half a year later, Antonakes appears to have stepped away from his audience-jaw-dropping approach. 

During a speech in Reno, Nevada at the Consumer Advisory Board Meeting, Antonakes said, “Our goal, however, is not some one-sided aim to maximize consumer protection or industry deterrence at all costs.  There is such a thing as doing too little, and there is such a thing as doing too much.  We are seeking an appropriate balance where incentives for homeowners, creditors, and servicers are aligned.”

It’s been six months since the new qualified mortgage rules went into effect, and since then, Antonakes said the CFPB has already trained more than 4,500 housing counselors on the servicing rules and released new rules to improve the mortgage experience for consumers.

But at the same time that the bureau is stepping away from its intensity, the CFPB is facing intense scrutiny from the House Financial Services Committee.

In his semi-annual report to Congress, CFPB Director Richard Cordray was caught defending himself against the fury of the Republicans, as the Democrats quickly went to wage a war against the Republicans on behalf of the CFPB, which quickly turned the hearing into a war room.  

And it doesn’t end there. The CFPB is also dealing with a recent strong of whistleblower employees painting a gruesome work environment for employees at the CFPB. 

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