Special Assignment

Bank of America Corp. has redeployed its companywide general auditor of nearly a decade to manage risk in a troubled part of the company: home mortgages.

Paul Morrison was named risk officer for home loans and insurance last week, reporting to chief risk officer Bruce Thompson, according to an internal memo last week. The home loan risk officer job previously belonged to Steve Troutner, who was named credit, product and pricing executive, reporting to Barbara Desoer, the president of B of A's home loans and insurance businesses. (Desoer and Thomspon both report directly to chief executive Brian Moynihan, so Troutner's can be viewed as a lateral move.)

"We are aligning talent and resources to address one of our most critical business issues," Thompson said in a memo to employees last week.

The realignment — which included several other executive changes — comes as Bank of America prepares to resubmit 102,000 affidavits in foreclosure proceedings that were suspended last month as the company reviewed its procedures. The company is also fighting what Moynihan has described as a "war of attrition" with investors who want it to repurchase soured mortgage paper.

Morrison had been the corporate general auditor since 2001. Christine Katziff, general auditor of the consumer business, was given the corporate general auditor duties on an acting basis; she reports to the board's audit committee.

Docket Data

In three months' time, Florida courts cleared more than 65,000 foreclosure cases.

The Office of the State Courts Administrator in Florida issued a report Monday showing that 46,940 foreclosure cases were granted a summary or final judgment in the period from July 1 to September 30. Just 23 cases went to trial during that time. Additionally, 17,025 cases were dismissed for various reasons that could include a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.

The backlog of foreclosure cases at the end of the period stood at 396,509, down from 462,339.

The study was designed to track the effectiveness of the roughly $6 million Florida's trial courts received in July from the state to help mitigate the backlog of foreclosures and speed up the process by establishing special foreclosure-only courts (often referred to as "rocket dockets") staffed by retired judges.

PHH and Putbacks

PHH Corp., a top-10 mortgage lender and servicer, appears to have shielded itself better than most from an onslaught of requests to repurchase defective loans.

In the past 18 months, the Mt. Laurel, N.J., company has received requests to repurchase or indemnify $191 million of loans owned by private investors (out of a total of $11.5 billion it services for such investors). PHH has successfully defended 83% of those requests, the company said. That figure does not include putback requests from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration.

Last year the company repurchased $104 million of loans (from both GSEs and private investors) and successfully defended itself on 65% of repurchase requests in total.

On a conference call Tuesday, PHH executives said they were able to demonstrate that they didn't violate any of the representations and warranties and attributed the company's successful defense to the fact that it didn't do subprime lending.

Although the company said it expects to increase repurchase-related reserves this quarter, "we believe that the company will likely face lower put-back expenses than peers," Paul Miller, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients Wednesday morning, citing "the company's solid underwriting standards and documentation processes. … And although we expect private label repurchase related liabilities in the industry to rise over the coming months, we do not believe that PHH will see a material increase in private label losses.

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