Regulators reviewed only half of mortgage servicers for compliance with national military lending law between 2007 and 2011, according to the Government Accountability Office.
In 2011, two mortgage servicers under investigation from the Justice Department revealed 165 improper foreclosures conducted without a proper court order as required by the Servicemember Civil Relief Act.
Six of 10 other servicers responded to House of Representatives letters shortly after, revealing another 148 improper foreclosures, according to the GAO report.
Banks were found to have charged more than 15,000 servicemembers fees and interest rates higher than the SCRA allowed. JPMorgan Chase (JPM) refunded roughly 10,000 of them through a settlement last year.
The amount of institutions examined for SCRA compliance varied greatly by year. (Click on the graph below to expand.)
Taken over the entire period from 2007 to 2011, at most, 52% of the servicing firms were examined. Had more thorough exams taken place earlier, many of the problems would have been caught ahead of time, according to the GAO.
Some servicers said compliance with SCRA was difficult because they could not flag which loan was held by a military servicemember. Orders were often difficult to interpret and vary considerably the servicers told the GAO. This led to mistakes by those at the servicing companies responsible for determining which borrowers were eligible for the protections.
Since the robo-signing scandal, a slew of new requirements dealing with foreclosures on military families came down. The $25 billion foreclosure settlement and consent orders with federal regulators contain new guidelines for dealing with these borrowers. Foreclosure reviews under both the DOJ and the consent orders underway will compensate military members for any improper foreclosures not yet uncovered.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau installed an entire division dedicated to oversee lending to the military members. Some firms such as Chase established boards to ensure compliance with the latest requirements.
Still, the GAO recommended regulators conduct more exams.
John Gingrich, chief of staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs wrote in a letter to the GAO that additional review steps will be in place by Aug. 1.
"If violations of SCRA mortgage provisions are discovered, VA will also act to appropriately notify DOJ and other stakeholder agencies/regulators of those violations," Gingrich wrote.