Community Banks Want a Pass on National Servicing Standards

Mortgage & Real Estate

Community bankers are pressing for a carve-out as lawmakers weigh whether to create national mortgage servicing standards.

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Jack Hopkins, president of CorTrust Bank in Sioux Falls, S.D., told the Senate Banking Committee this week that his bank should not be penalized for the multitude of problems uncovered by regulators at the largest mortgage servicers.

“Any national standards developed by Congress or the regulators must exempt community banks. I urge you not to tamper with our success,” said Hopkins, who testified on behalf of the Independent Community Bankers of America.

The Senate Banking Committee is considering three separate bills that would establish national servicing standards.

Such rules could require servicers to establish a single point of contact with borrowers, prohibit servicers from proceeding with a foreclosure at the same time they are working with the homeowner on a loan modification, and seek to address conflicts of interest between loan servicers and the investors who own the loans.

Panel Democrats are hoping to combine the three bills into a single piece of legislation and pass it soon. If it clears the Senate, it is likely to face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled House.

Still, the legislative push is just one of several efforts to establish stricter rules of the road for servicers.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have their own guidelines for servicers of the mortgages they own or guarantee. Federal regulators, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which opened its doors late last month, have also been collaborating on the establishment of national servicing standards.

Most of the concerns raised by critics of the mortgage servicing industry do not apply to small banks that originate mortgages and hold them in portfolio.

Hopkins, the South Dakota banker, noted Tuesday that his bank has an average delinquency rate of 1.7% — or about one-third of the national average — on a portfolio of about 5,000 loans.

He said that smaller servicers have better control over mortgage documents than their larger counterparts, and they also have a better understanding of individual circumstances, such as the loss of a job due to the closing of a local employer.

Daily Briefing | Wednesday, August 3, 2011

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