Senator Seeks DOJ Investigation Of Default Servicing Practices

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On March 8, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) released a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder advising the DOJ about claims made to the Senator’s office by a “long-time professional in the mortgage industry” that banks and mortgage servicers have engaged in a “systematic effort” to double bill borrowers for certain foreclosure-related fees. The letter identifies a major default service provider with whom other banks and servicers allegedly have been complicit in establishing a fraudulent fee structure that increased foreclosure rates and led directly to other servicing problems, including robosigning. Senator Wyden offers that in addition to being potentially fraudulent, the practices described may violate the False Claims Act. The letter explains that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which currently operate under government conservatorship, are improperly being asked to pay fees that the servicers also are passing on to borrowers. The letter, a copy of which also was sent to the federal housing and banking agencies, seeks a DOJ investigation into these allegations, or a report from the DOJ about any investigation conducted to date. The Senator also (i) seeks guidance from the DOJ about actions Congress can take with regard to foreclosure billing transparency, including a “RESPA-like policy,” (ii) asks whether Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s policies regarding certain of the fees at issue should be implemented industry-wide, and (iii) requests an investigation of competition in the title industry and alleged pricing and market manipulation practices.