TRENTON – December 20, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced today that New Jersey has joined a $2.1 billion, multi-state and federal settlement with Atlanta-based Ocwen Financial Corporation and its subsidiary, Ocwen Loan Servicing, that resolves allegations the companies engaged in mortgage servicing misconduct.
The settlement terms address alleged servicing misconduct by Ocwen, as well as two companies later acquired by Ocwen — Homeward Residential Inc. and Litton Home Servicing LP. Ocwen specializes in servicing high-risk mortgage loans.
According to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the misconduct resulted in premature and unauthorized foreclosures, violations of homeowners’ rights and protections, and the use of false and deceptive documents and affidavits, including “robo-signing.”
The settlement with the nation’s fourth largest mortgage servicer is the result of a massive civil law enforcement investigation and initiative that includes state attorneys general, state mortgage regulators and the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Through a consent judgement, the settlement holds Ocwen accountable for past mortgage servicing and foreclosure abuses, provides relief to homeowners, and stops future fraud and abuse.
“What we found in the Ocwen case is similar to a lot of the problems we saw in our other mortgage servicer enforcement cases,” Acting Attorney General Hoffman said. “This is part of our ongoing civil law enforcement effort to hold servicers, including Ocwen, accountable and ensure that they treat borrowers fairly, and return money to its rightful owners.”
Under the settlement, Ocwen agreed to $2 billion in first-lien principal reduction, and $125 million for cash payments to borrowers on nearly 185,000 foreclosed loans.
In New Jersey, Ocwen will provide troubled borrowers with an estimated $151 million in first lien principal reductions, and 1,887 loans will be eligible to receive a cash payment. The payment amount, which is contingent on the number of consumers who submit valid claims, is projected to exceed $1,000.
Joseph A. Smith, Jr., Monitor of the National Mortgage Settlement, will oversee the Ocwen agreement’s implementation and compliance through the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight.
The National Mortgage Settlement, a three-year agreement reached in 2012 with the attorneys general of 49 states and the District of Columbia, the federal government, and five mortgage servicers (Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo), has so far provided more than $51 billion in relief to distressed homeowners and created significant new servicing standards. The U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. entered the consent judgments on April 5, 2012.
The Ocwen settlement does not grant immunity from criminal offenses and would not affect criminal prosecutions. The settlement does not prevent homeowners or investors from pursuing individual, institutional or class action civil cases. The settlement also preserves the authority of state attorneys general and federal agencies to investigate and pursue other aspects of the mortgage crisis, including securities cases.
Among the Ocwen settlement highlights are:
Ocwen commits to $2 billion in first-lien principal reduction.
Ocwen pays $125 million cash to borrowers associated with 183,984 foreclosed loans.
Homeowners receive comprehensive new protections from new mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure standards.
An independent monitor will oversee implementation of the settlement to ensure compliance.
The government can pursue civil claims outside of the settlement, and any criminal case; borrowers and investors can pursue individual, institutional or class action cases regardless of the settlement.
Ocwen pays $2.3 million for settlement administration costs.
The final settlement, through a consent judgment, will be filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. If approved by a judge, it will have the authority of a court order.
Because of the complexity of the mortgage market and this settlement, which will span a three year period, in some cases Ocwen will contact borrowers directly regarding principal reductions. However, borrowers should contact Ocwen to obtain more information about principal reductions and whether they qualify under terms of this settlement.
A settlement administrator will contact qualified borrowers associated with foreclosed loans regarding cash payments.
More information will be made available as the settlement programs are implemented.
Forty-eight additional states and the District of Columbia are party to the settlement, along with the federal CFPB.
Deputy Attorney General Lorraine K. Rak, Chief of the Division of Law’s Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, and special Deputy Attorney General Krima Shah, handled the matter on behalf of the State.