Broader Servicer Safety Net Needed: Desoer

President Barack Obama’s Making Home Affordable modification plan lacks critical servicer protection laws needed to reach the maximum 3m to 4m borrowers touted as potentially eligible, Bank of America‘s Barbara Desoer tells Bloomberg. Lawmakers additionally must draft crucial legislation to shield servicers from lawsuit by holders of securitized bonds. “If the government wants to go down a path of being all-inclusive of who would be eligible, then I think that’s required,” says Desoer, head of the BofA’s mortgage business, according to Bloomberg. “If they’d be willing to stop at some point, and leave some borrowers with ‘pay-as-agreed’ or ‘go-to-foreclosure’ options, then it’s clear, you don’t need that.” The program offers incentives to servicers that initiate maintainable mortgage modifications. A so-called servicer “safe harbor” would impose legal protections for servicers who modify the $1.8trn in loans underlying residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). Critics of President Obama’s modification plan — and of any so-called “streamlined” modification plan — usually draw attention to the program’s apparent lack of consideration for bondholders with a vested interest in RMBS platforms that may be altered when servicers modify securitized mortgages. BofA seems conscious of the dispute and plans to limit its participation in the modification program where investors decline, as Desoer tells Bloomberg: “To the extent an investor does not want to participate, and has not delegated authority and requires prior approval, we will respect that,” she says. “We are not going to put that relationship at risk by doing anything differently.” Write to Diana Golobay at [email protected].

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