Ocwen goes on the offense in fight with regulators
In an attempt to show it went all out to help struggling homeowners, the embattled mortgage servicer Ocwen Financial provided an unusual level of detail about foreclosures that regulators have deemed "inappropriate."
A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau lawsuit filed last month accuses Ocwen of widespread servicing errors that cost borrowers their homes. CEO Ron Faris fired back during Ocwen's first-quarter earnings call Wednesday, outlining three foreclosure sales he said were deemed "inappropriate" by regulators, but were actually difficult cases that the servicer maintains it handled adequately.
In all three instances, which occurred between 2010 and 2015, the company said it went above and beyond industry standards to help homeowners, but foreclosure couldn't be avoided due to lack of borrower follow-through or other third-party action:
— A loan was in foreclosure and three years delinquent when Ocwen received it. The borrower received a modification, but made only 26 of 84 possible payments over seven years. The borrower had lived in the property for over two years without paying and Ocwen foreclosed after the property was vacant.
— Ocwen modified a loan three times between 2009 and 2013. The borrower failed to make payments. Ocwen then tried to help that borrower obtain a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, but a mortgage insurance company blocked the workout and had Ocwen continue with the foreclosure.
— Ocwen received a loan misrepresented as an investment property in a transfer. It then offered the borrower modifications three times and rescinded a foreclosure to give the borrower more time. The borrower made no payments for three years, then left the property and mailed in the keys.
"We believe the substantive allegations in the suit are based primarily on the CFPB's flawed analysis of data and it's relying on isolated instances where Ocwen self-identified ways where we can do better. … So we intend to vigorously defend ourselves, while staying committed to serving our customers and the communities where they live," Faris said.
Other evidence Ocwen provided to rebut regulators' allegations included the findings of independent reviews of Ocwen's servicing operations and data showing a steady decline in the number of monthly consumer complaints filed with the CFPB against the company.
Ocwen reported a $32.6 million net loss for the first quarter of 2017, compared with net losses of $112.2 million a year earlier and $10.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2016. Ocwen had regained profitability briefly in the third quarter of 2016.
The company set aside $12.5 million in the fourth quarter for a potential CFPB settlement. It is continuing to hold those funds in reserve.
Although Ocwen is fighting the regulatory actions by the CFPB and 31 states in court, those actions make it unclear when Ocwen will be able to purchase bulk mortgage servicing rights again, Faris said. He also provided few new details about Ocwen's pending deal with New Residential Investment Corp. that would finalize a long-expected sale of MSRs and have its biggest client take a 5% stake in the servicer.
Ocwen's servicing unit generated $3 million in profit during the quarter and its lending business recorded $1 million in profit. The company also reported in its first-quarter results that it has an $8 million reserve related to a legacy securities class-action litigation claim.