Ocwen’s Board Appoints 2 New Directors in Wake of Accusations

Ocwen Financial Corporation (NYSE: OCN) announced Wednesday it has named two new independent directors to the company’s Board of Directors in wake of several regulatory actions taken against the firm in the past month.

Joining the Ocwen Board are Phyllis R. Caldwell, vice chair of Community Preservation and Development Corporation, and DeForest Blake Soaries, Jr., senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey.

Choosing Caldwell and Soaries was a fit for the company, as their backgrounds and skills align with Ocwen’s mission to be an industry leader in foreclosure prevention and community management, said Ocwen President and CEO Ronald Faris.

“We are delighted that Phyllis Caldwell and Dr. DeForest Soaries have joined the Ocwen Board of Directors,” Faris said in a written statement. “Both are highly accomplished individuals who share Ocwen’s commitment to the highest standards of corporate governance, and they both care deeply about borrowers and communities impacted by the housing crisis.”

A finance and economic development advisor, Caldwell was previously chief of the Homeownership Preservation Office at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In that position, she was responsible for oversight of the U.S. housing market stabilization, economic recovery and foreclosure prevention initiatives established though the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Caldwell’s résumé also included various leadership roles as an executive of Bank of America Corporation (NYSE: BAC), serving most recently as the president of Community Development Banking.

Today, she serves as vice chair of the Community Preservation and Development Corporation, a non-profit real estate developer that provides affordable housing to low- and moderate-income individuals and families.

Soaries, who has served as senior paster of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens since 1990, also has experience in the government sector.

In 2003, then-President George W. Bush appointed him as commission of the United States Election Assistance Commission where he oversaw and managed distribution of $2.3 billion to states for election reform activities.

Prior to that, from 1999 to 2002, Soaries served as New Jersey’s 30th Secretary of State, a position in which he served as a senior advisor to the governor on issues that transcended traditional department lines.

Joining Ocwen’s Board adds to Soaries’ roles as independent director at several other institutions, including the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he is vice chairman of the Compensation and Human Resources Committee and serves as a member of the Technology Committee and Housing Committee.

Soaries is also an independent director of Independence Realty Trust, a position he’s held since 2011, and is chairman of the Compensation Committee there.

“Ms. Caldwell’s experience as a senior executive in Community Development Banking at Bank of America and a senior official at the U.S. Treasury, and Dr. Soaries’ background in New Jersey state government and as a director of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, gives them a broad and deep understanding of the housing and mortgage markets, as well as perspective on the issues facing struggling borrowers and communities,” said Ocwen’s Non-Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors Barry Wish.

The addition of the two new members to Ocwen’s Board follows a week after the resignation of company Foudner and Chairman William Erbey, who stepped down Jan. 16 after 30 years of service with the company as part of a $150 million settlement with the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS).

Several major conditions of the settlement mean tighter oversight into Ocwen’s business practices including its mortgage servicing activities and the requirement of having a NYDFS-appointed monitor to assess the company’s operations for two years.

But the regulatory scrutiny didn’t end there. Just last week, Ocwen came under fire from California’s Department of Business Oversight, which accused the company of failing to provide documentation showing compliance with state homeowner protection laws.

Without license from the Department, Ocwen could be forced to sell its mortgage servicing rights in the state of California.

The company, which owns top-10 reverse mortgage lender Liberty Home Equity Solutions, is currently working to cooperate with the Department, according to a statement Faris made last week.

In light of the various regulatory attention, the addition of Caldwell and Soaries to the Board is viewed favorably by the company as it strives to maintain high standards of corporate governance now and in the future.

“We look forward to the contributions these accomplished business leaders will make toward our future success and their commitment to all of our stakeholders,” said Wish.

Written by Jason Oliva

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