HousingWire’s Monday Morning Cup of Coffee takes a look at news from the weekend, with more coverage on bigger issues.

Mortgage servicing giant Lender Processing Services entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to pay $35 million to resolve a federal criminal investigation into foreclosure fraud by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.

The settlement includes a payment by LPS of $20 million to the U.S. Marshals Service and $15 million to the U.S. Department of Treasury, the company announced in a statement.

“The conclusion of the Justice Department’s inquiry is another positive step for LPS,” said President and CEO Hugh Harris of LPS.

He added, “Coupled with recent settlements with multiple state attorneys general, as well as other litigation, LPS has effectively dealt with its legacy issues related to past business practices and is squarely focused on delivering leading technology-driven solutions to enable the mortgage industry to meet its new requirements.” 

Colorado high-country real-estate sales hit their highest levels since 2008, with December sales ranking as one of the strongest gains since the boom times of 2007, the Denver Post reports.

“It was a combination of people searching for a good investment and watching a market near the bottom,” said Vail, Colo. broker Gil Fancher.

He added, “People are realizing I can park money in this area and come and use it or I can rent it and I can even gain a little back on my investment when the market returns.”

For instance, in Pitkin County, December sales reached $270 million, up 116% year-over-year.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

Quick passage of a mortgage refinancing bill, prompted by President Barack Obama, will face an uphill battle due to the sharp division in Congress, The Washington Post writes.

During Obama’s State of the Union address, he noted that the proposed bill would assist homeowners with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to take advantage of low interest rates and refinance their homes.

While the bill is expected to gain traction in the Senate, the proposal will likely face challenges in the House because many members favor scaling back the government’s role in the housing market as a way of aiding the economy.

“The American taxpayers have already sunk $190 billion dollars into the operations of Fannie and Freddie,” said Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, a member of the House Financial Services Committee

He added, “It’s time that we wind their operations down instead of using them as a piggy bank for failed programs that further delay the housing recovery.” 

Click here to read the full article. 

The housing industry posted a break in market momentum, as residential construction cooled in January while existing-homes sales slowed after their strongest gain since 2007, according to Bloomberg.

“The January numbers for housing will be a bit softer after the exaggerated strength toward the end of the year,” said Josh Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc. in New York.

He added, “Housing will recover at a modest pace this year.”

Additional housing jobs as well as easier access to credit would help assist historically low mortgage rates and further improve the housing industry, viewed as a bright spot for the economy.

To read the full article, click here.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. closed its third institution in the nation this year.

Covenant Bank in Chicago was closed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation – Division of Bank, which appointed the FDIC as the receiver. To protect the depositors, the FDIC entered into an assumption and purchase agreement with the Liberty Bank and Trust Company in New Orleans, to assume all of the deposits of Covenant Bank.

The former Covenant Bank will reopen its sole branch during normal business hours as a branch of Liberty Bank and Trust Company. 

As of Dec. 31, Covenant Bank had approximately $58.4 million in total assets and $54.2 million in total deposits. 

Read the full statement here.


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