Cheryl A. Howe, newly appointed chairwoman of the homeloan industry's only fraud-control trade group, has set an aggressive agenda for the industry. That includes taking on one of the Internal Revenue Service's long-standing practices: slow document delivery.
Last month, Ms. Howe was appointed to head the California Mortgage Bankers Association's committee on mortgage quality control and compliance for two years.
The 39-year-old executive, who describes herself as "old and feisty," is a senior vice president for quality-assurarance at Directors Mortgage Loan Corp., Riverside, Calif. She is spearheading several efforts by the committee. Most notably, she is pushing the IRS to speed up its delivery of borrowers' tax returns to quality-control executives.
Most lenders and some investors require that income reported by potential borrowers on loan applications be checked against what is reported to the IRS in 1040 tax returns.
Often, lenders find discrepancies. It is especially common for business people to claim they are not self-employed, Ms. Howe said. Lenders estimate a third of all loan applications from self-employed merchants contain misrepresentation or fraud.
Today, lenders obtain permission from potential borrowers to get copies of tax returns and other information.
Private companies, charging hefty prices, can process the forms and get the lenders the tax information in one or two days, bankers said. But a mailed application receives a response in six to eight weeks.
"That is a long time to ask someone to wait before you verify their information," Ms. Howe said.
She said it was unfair for smaller lenders, who cannot afford the charges for quicker service, to lose out because of the IRS' slow action.
A few weeks ago, she and her committee sent a letter to the IRS office in San Jose, Calif. She asked in the letter that the IRS launch a pilot study of a new two-day distribution system in Northern California. She plans for such a program to run in conjunction with the California Mortgage Bankers Association in July or August.
"It hinges on the IRS taking a step forward," said Hakki Etem, principle of Cogent Real Estate Economics Inc., San Francisco, who is a committee members.
On behalf of the committee, Mr. Etem will use the expected pool of 1,000 test cases to create a statistical determination of how many loan applications contain misrepresentation.
Ms. Howe said she would also push for creation of a standardized quality-control audit for conventional loans. She wants loan-fraud busters to reach out to mortgage brokers and title and escrow companies to work jointly on fraud issues.