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Home appraisal’s ugly history and uncertain future

This is Part I of a deep dive into the home appraisal industry. Today we explore the origins of the appraisal industry and its current lack of diversity.

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Another regulator investigates Ocwen Financial

Ocwen’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year just got worse

Ocwen Financial (OCN) is now under the spotlight from the National Mortgage Settlement, which is saying that it doesn’t trust Ocwen’s own internal reviewers and the documents they provide.

Ocwen has been under the gun since February of this year, when the New York Department of Financial Services stopped its plans to buy a $2.7 billion MSR portfolio. Since then the NYDFS completely killed that deal with Wells Fargo (WFC) and any other bulk purchases of MSRs. The hits continued through the fall with the firm being accused of backdating letters to borrowers.

"In May 2014, an Ocwen employee contacted a member of the Monitoring Committee and alleged serious deficiencies in the internal review group (IRG) process, which called into question the IRG’s independence and the integrity of the IRG’s operations," said Joseph Smith, the monitor for 2012's  National Mortgage Settlement. " Additionally, after reviewing a letter issued by the New York Superintendent of Financial Services, which indicated that the date on certain correspondence from Ocwen to its consumers was incorrect, I directed Ocwen to scope, correct and remediate this letter dating problem."

Smith said he has also engaged an independent accounting firm to investigate Ocwen's compliance.

"Again, I engaged McGladrey to perform additional work to confirm that Ocwen is complying with the Settlement. McGladrey’s work on both issues is ongoing, and I will report to the Court when it has been completed," he said.

The McGladrey report is due in March 2015.

Ocwen released a statement from its CEO.

“We will continue to support the monitor’s efforts to ensure that we are fully compliant with all aspects of the National Mortgage Settlement," Ronald Faris said.

According to reports, Smith has brought on McGladrey, an accounting form, to determine whether Ocwen has been meeting the settlement's conditions. That report won’t be released until March 2015.

Last week, the Treasury Department’s 3Q14 Making Home Affordable Performance Report, listed Ocwen as needing “moderate” improvement, the same assessment as Citi (C), NationStar (NSM), Select Portfolio Servicing, and Wells Fargo.

Notably, though, this assessment was made prior to Ocwen’s disclosure that it was backdating letters to homeowners.

The Treasury Department is now investigating the impact of these errors.

As analysts note, a review of Ocwen by Treasury is negative but the impact will be limited in scope.

Worst-case scenario, Treasury reevaluates and puts Ocwen in the “needs substantial improvement” category, meaning the Treasury would withhold financial incentives until the servicer makes certain identified improvements. 

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