The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) late Friday reached a settlement agreement with Baltimore-based Equitable Trust Mortgage (ETM), ending the temporary termination of ETM’s FHA approval. FHA on December 7 suspended ETM’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)/FHA approval after finding 37 cases where ETM allegedly overcharged for broker and loan origination fees beyond HUD limits. FHA said in an e-mailed statement early last week that ETM charged both a broker fee and an additional 1% of the mortgage amount in origination fees, exceeding the 1% limit set by HUD. FHA claims ETM charged these unauthorized fees to a “substantially greater” portion of minority borrowers — 68% — than non-minorities. “The settlement agreement is a victory for both HUD and the borrowers who were affected by ETM’s actions,” said FHA commissioner David Stevens in an e-mailed statement Friday. “The settlement agreement imposes a significant penalty on ETM for violating HUD requirements, but also provides the wronged borrowers relief in these tough economic times.” ETM settled without admitting fault or liability and paid HUD a $277,500 civil money penalty, FHA said. ETM will also refund the overcharged broker fees to the 37 customers in amounts ranging from $500 to $9,135. The total amount repaid to borrowers will be $147,589.81, FHA said. Altogether, ETM will pay $425,089.81 in fines and refunds. ETM will make outreach efforts to the overcharged borrowers, but will donate refunds to a HUD-approved Housing Counseling Agency in cases where borrowers cannot be reached, FHA said. Write to Diana Golobay.
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