Report: FHFA, mortgage servicers failed to handle serious complaints

The report found that specifically, the agency did not sufficiently define its role in processing complaints, it lacked a system for tracking complaints and it failed to perform various oversight functions of servicers to ensure compliance.

Recommendations included improvements in those areas, which were largely agreed to by FHFA. 

The report hits as talks heat up within the Obama administration to find a suitable replacement for DeMarco, who has come under fire from Democrats for his unwillingness to consider principal mortgage write-downs for some homeowners, among other issues. 

During a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), who has been discussed as a possible replacement, recused himself from questioning while any decision remains up in the air. 

Cummings has called for new leadership at FHFA and encouraged President Obama to nominate a permanent, Senate-confirmed candidate to take over for DeMarco.

DeMarco, meanwhile, argued on Tuesday that he has a good relationship with the White House and, while there are disagreements, they are working cooperatively to ensure that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac maintain the highest standards possible after more than four years under government control. 

Between Oct. 1, 2011 and Nov. 30, more than 34,000 escalated cases were filed by homeowners with Freddie and its eight largest mortgage servicers.  Although current FHFA guidelines require these complaints to be resolved within 30 days of receipt, more than 20 percent failed to meet that standard.

Specifically, as of December, 1,179 or 98 percent of Freddie’s servicers, which handled nearly 70 percent of the loans, had not reported on any escalated cases even though they managed 6.6 million mortgages for Freddie. 

Of those eight, four — Bank of America, CitiMortgage, Provident and Wells Fargo — did not report any information about serious cases despite handling more than 20,000 such cases during the 14-month period between October 2011 and November. 

Further, of the 25,528 escalated cases resolved by the eight largest servicers during that same period, 5,372 or 21 percent were not timely resolved within 30 days.

Current FHFA guidelines also require mortgage servicers to report the serious cases they receive to Freddie on a monthly basis.  

The report also found that no penalties have been imposed on servicers for their failure to handle those cases.

In response to the report, Cummings sent a letter to panel Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asking the committee hold a hearing with Edward DeMarco, the FHFA's acting director and Steve Linick, the agency's inspector general. 

Cummings also requested that representatives from the banks specifically mentioned report monthly on the escalated cases they receive, also testify.

By the end of last year, Freddie owned or guaranteed over 10.6 million residential mortgages with a combined unpaid principal balance of $1.6 trillion.