DOJ Secures $83 Million Settlement Over Alleged FHA Underwriting Violations

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On September 29, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had secured a settlement from a national lender, resolving allegations that the lender violated the False Claims Act, Program Fraud Civil Remedies Act, and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 in its underwriting of Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured mortgage loans.  The lender participated in the Direct Endorsement Lender (DE) Program, which allowed it to underwrite and endorse mortgages for FHA insurance.  As part of the settlement agreement, the bank agreed to a thirteen-page “Statement of Facts,” admitting that between January 1, 2006 and September 30, 2014, it endorsed for FHA insurance loans that did not meet HUD underwriting requirements, and therefore were not eligible for FHA mortgage insurance under the DE Program.  In certifying loans for FHA insurance, DOJ alleged that the lender violated FHA underwriting requirements by certification of loans determined to have a “Serious-Marketability” rating, or inadequate verification of gift funds, funds to close, borrower payment history, verification of employment and income, or cash reserves.  The DOJ also alleged that the lender maintained a quality-control program that was understaffed and did not comply with FHA requirements.  In fact, during the relevant time period, the percentage of loans underwritten in each year rated “Serious-Marketability” by the lender’s own quality-control department always exceeded thirty percent, and for some years exceeded fifty percent.  Nonetheless, the lender did not self-report any deficient loans until 2013.  The settlement agreement requires the lender to pay an $83 million civil money penalty, and releases the lender from liability under the above statutes.

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