WASHINGTON — The office charged with monitoring the $25 billion multi-state mortgage servicing settlement announced Monday that it has hired BDO Consulting to assist with those duties.
The Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight, headed by former North Carolina Banking Commissioner Joseph A. Smith, Jr., made the announcement at the end of a vetting process that lasted roughly two months.
"As I entered the process of engaging the primary professional firm, I knew it would be critical to find the right balance of independence and capacity," Smith said in a press release. "I conducted a thorough review of more than 20 firms, and I am confident that I have found the best balance in BDO."
After being hired as the settlement's monitor, Smith said in an April interview that he wanted to keep his own staff small while relying heavily on contractors to help him review the self-monitoring work that will be done by Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC), and Ally Financial.
The process of selecting a contractor with sufficient independence from those five banks was complicated by the fact that many of the large U.S. law firms and accounting firms have long-standing client relationships with the biggest banks. A BDO spokeswoman declined immediate comment on whether the firm has done work for any of the five servicers that are parties to the settlement.
In addition, numerous large law firms and accounting firms have been hired by banks as part of a separate foreclosure review process being run by the Federal Reserve Board and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
BDO Consulting is a division of BDO USA, LLP, which provides tax, financial advisory and consulting services to companies.
Anthony M. Lendez, a partner with BDO Consulting, touted the firm's credentials for the job, noting in particular the firm's experience in the mortgage industry.
"BDO has significant mortgage industry experience servicing large retail mortgage lenders and financial institutions, having conducted related assessments and investigations subject to regulatory oversight," Lendez said in the press release.
As part of Monday's announcement, Smith said that he is now in the process of selecting secondary professional firms to provide additional support to his office.
"This blend of experts will provide me the benefit of various perspectives and proficiencies while ensuring we have the boots on the ground necessary to do our work," Smith stated.
According to a chart released by the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight, four other firms have also been selected to assist with the monitoring process.
That list includes two law firms: Poyner Spruill LLP, a North Carolina firm where Smith works, and Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, which has offices in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Parkside Associates will do forensic accounting, and Cherry, Bekaert & Holland will provide certified public accounting services.
Smith was hired in February to monitor the settlements reached between the five large mortgage servicers and 49 states over robosigning and other servicing abuses.