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Mortgage

Why is Nationstar sitting pretty when Lawsky is on its back?

Opportunities and warnings abound for servicer

Nationstar (NSM) is under a lot of scrutiny, the latest being a double-dose of good and bad news – a nod from Compass Point Trading & Research on opportunities for the Texas firm in the 2015 federal budget, and a warning  from New York state’s top financial regulator.

This comes just after Nationstar, along with Ocwen Financial (OCN) and Walter Investments (WAC), was cited on Tuesday by Moody's Investors Service, which said there are concerns that nonbank mortgage servicing companies will begin originating nonprime mortgages.

Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of New York’s Department of Financial Services, sent a letter to Texas-based Nationstar CEO Jay Bray on Wednesday, citing concerns about the rate of growth in its servicing and its failure to fund 141 loans.

“We have received hundreds of complaints from New York consumers about your company’s mortgage practices, including problems related to mortgage modifications, improper fees, lost paperwork, and numerous other issues,” Lawsky wrote.

Lawsky wrote that Nationstar’s year-end fiscal report showed “a substantial increase in Nationstar’s servicing activities since December 2012.  Specifically, on a nationwide basis, the aggregate unpaid principal balance … of mortgage loans serviced by Nationstar more than doubled from $126.5 billion at year-end 2012 to $283.3 billion at year-end 2013.”

The letter, a copy of which HousingWire obtained, continues, “The Department identified an even faster growth pattern in the volume of New York loans serviced by Nationstar, which nearly tripled from 26,111 loans to 73,489 loans with an aggregate UPB increase from $5.6 billion to $14.3 billion from year-end 2012 to year-end 2013.”

Nationstar is currently limiting its mortgage originations and plans to keep shrinking its market share.

Bray responded to the letter with an open letter of his own.

"We intend to comply fully and transparently with Mr. Lawsky’s request, just as we do when working with the dozens of state and federal regulators who oversee our business and industry on a daily basis. We helped more than 100,000 of our 2.3 million customers with loan modifications and other workouts last year, and we refinanced mortgages for more than 60,000 homeowners in 2013 as well," Bray wrote. "We have a proven track record of helping homeowners succeed and avoid foreclosure, and we welcome the opportunity to share this information with the New York Department of Financial Services.”

In better news for the company, Compass Point said that hidden in the White House’s proposed budget for fiscal 2015 was an item where Nationstar and other servicers may benefit.

Deep in the appendix of this budget proposal, the Obama Administration requests again that Congress grant the Federal Housing Administration authority to mandate poor performing servicers to enter into sub-servicing agreements.

This proposed change, if enacted, would grant the FHA authority to either transfer servicing or require a servicer to enter into a sub-servicing agreement.

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