Fannie vs. Freddie Earnings; Loan Limit Reduction Ahead; Jumbo Market Chatter; Think Tank Opinion on GSEs, by Rob Chrisman. Mortgage News Daily

Yesterday I went through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – which are now the 5 stages of buying gas.

Incidents of mortgage fraud dropped from 2009 to 2010. Either that, or incidents rose – it depends who you ask. FRAUD. Regardless, Florida took the “top” honors, followed by New York, California, New Jersey, and Maryland (No. 5).

The FDIC’s chairman Sheila Bair will indeed be stepping down when her term expires, as has previously been announced. Cake and soda pop will be served in the FDIC’s cafeteria on July 8th – no gifts please.

Fannie & Freddie recently released results that appear to point to the different focus in the past of their two companies. One reader wrote, “Freddie Mac reported its first true net profit in almost two years, earning $676 million in the first quarter and not asking the taxpayer for more money. But Fannie reported at $6.5 billion loss for the quarter, and asked Treasury for $8.5 billion in taxpayer money. From my vantage point, the difference rests in the amount of Countrywide business that Fannie bought in the past – CW was Fannie’s best customer for several years, selling Fannie a variety of A-paper, alt-A, pay option ARMs, and other products. I bet that if you take Countrywide out of the equation, Fannie would show similar results to Freddie. But last year Fannie agreed to one lump sum from BofA to settle the bulk of buyback claims – good for BofA, bad for Fannie.”

Last month the Cato Institute published its opinion of the agencies, and it is making the rounds. “Foremost among the government-sponsored enterprises’ deleterious activities was their vast direct purchases of loans that can only be characterized as subprime. Under reasonable definitions of subprime, almost 30 percent of Fannie and Freddie direct purchases could be considered subprime. The government-sponsored enterprises were also the largest single investor in subprime private label mortgage-backed securities. During the height of the housing bubble, almost 40 percent of newly issued private-label subprime securities were purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In order to protect both the taxpayer and our broader economy, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be abolished, along with other policies that transfer the risk of mortgage default from the lender to the taxpayer.”

Who is going to teach your staff about NMLS? Be sure to scroll down a little for news on NMLS and Federally regulated institutions! NMLSTraining

For any jumbo mortgage fans, here is some chatter: Jumbo

By the way, at this point the conforming loan level in the higher-priced areas will indeed drop to $625,500 from $729,750. Although it is not set in stone and could be subject to some political wrangling, few doubt that it will drop. Here is Fannie’s memo stating the loan limits Fannie along with the FHFA’s.

Aventur Partners & Aventur Mortgage Capital appear to be turning some heads in the jumbo world. Led by the former co-founder and CEO of Thornburg Mortgage (Larry Goldstone) is developing a new mortgage company specializing in jumbo lending. Past and current legal nightmares aside, Thornburg-style companies certainly have their fans in the business, and the former vice president of Thornburg, David Akre, is the serving COO at Aventur.

“Soldiers do not march in step when going across bridges because they could set up a vibration which could be sufficient to knock the bridge down.” Fortunately not every housing market moves in exactly the same direction and in the same magnitude, but Zillow posted some housing numbers that certainly would make a bridge shake a little. There seem to be dozens of house price indices, but the one from Zillow yesterday showed that home values posted the largest decline in the first quarter since late 2008. Home values fell 3% in the first quarter from the previous quarter and 1.1% in March from the previous month, and Zillow reports prices have now fallen for 57 consecutive months. Our economy needs job & housing, housing and jobs, to truly recover, and although mortgage rates continue to be low, the expiration of the housing tax credit and the continued flow of foreclosures hitting the market aren’t helping prices. Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis posted the largest declines during the first quarter of the top 25 metro areas tracked by Zillow, while Pittsburgh, Dallas and Washington posted the smallest declines.

As an interesting side note to this, housing is certainly more affordable than any time in a few decades, but credit, appraisal, and documentation standards remain tight (many would say they should, and if they were in place 5 years ago we wouldn’t have these issues). One report mentioned that the average credit score on loans backed by Fannie Mae stood at 762 in the first quarter, up from an average of 718 between 2001-2004.

Franklin American relaxed its conventional condominium guidelines to allow established condominiums with 200 units or more to be approved through DU Limited Review or CPM. FAMC also tweaked its policies for “Purchase of a short sale/foreclosure or REO – Appraisal Requirements” (added the requirement for a full appraisal if the borrower is purchasing a property sold under a short sale in addition to transactions where the borrower is purchasing a foreclosure or REO), required that utilities must be on at time of appraiser’s inspection, and revised the income documentation guidelines for borrowers employed by an interested party to require a written VOE in addition to the most recent 30 day paystub. FAMC announced the introduction of the Conforming Fixed Rate 97 product which allows loans up to 97% through DU, with certain restrictions.

GMAC Bank Correspondent Funding, echoing FHA Mortgage Letter 2011-11 on the subject of Refinance Transactions, refined its stance on the use of FHA TOTAL Scorecard to underwrite Credit Qualifying Streamlines (will continue to be eligible) and determining the mortgage basis on a Cash-out transaction when a borrower is buying out ground rent. GMAC also reminded clients that the Freddie Mac Relief Refinance Open Access product has been discontinued, and after tomorrow several of its loan program codes will no longer be available. GMACB will not purchase loans where LP feedback states Open Access.

Wells’ wholesale notified brokers about changes to its “Compensation and Anti-Steering: BYTE Fee Details Now Accepted, Compensation and Anti-Steering: Appraisal Fee Reimbursement, and Best Practices to Avoid FHA Case Number Cancellation. WF’s broker clients were also reminded not to delay in learning about the NMLS Federal Registration*, given a new address for the “Change of Servicer” notifications, updated the processing fee for Guaranteed Rural Housing loans and curing TIL material disclosure errors, and reminded of the final documentation delivery address for VA loan Guaranty Certificates and Rural Development Loan

Note Guarantees.

*Three months ago the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Farm Credit Administration, FDIC, National Credit Union Administration, OCC, and OTS announced the opening of the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry for Federally Regulated originators. “All originators (company and loan level) who are federally regulated will have 180 days to complete the SAFE Act requirements and register with the federal S.A.F.E. registry. One should not delay, as at the end of July all federally regulated originators will be required to provide their NMLS Loan Originator and LO Company ID’s: FederalNMLS

Out in California, First California Mortgage is looking for someone to lead its new Multi-Family division. The person will be handling the full range of processing and monitoring activities associated with the multi-family housing program, along with cultivating new and enhancing established relationships with realtors, builders, community groups/clubs and associates resulting in new loan originations and referrals. In addition, the person will be securing new Agency lending opportunities, working primarily with Freddie and Fannie. (The complete list of duties and requirements is too lengthy for this commentary.) If you’re interested, or know someone who is, contact Shannon Thomson, Director of Human Resources, at

Parkside Lending, a west coast wholesaler, reminded its brokers that it will fund Non-owner high balance purchase loans up to 80% LTV up to $625,500 through its Freddie Mac Super Conforming product line and subject to other restrictions. Parkside also allows broker/owners to select individual compensation plans for each of their branch offices. “This means one branch could be at 1.0% monthly comp contract while another is at 1.5% monthly comp -and so on, as long as they are under separate branches as recognized by DRE.”

Wall Street continues to see good interest by investors in mortgage products, “…buying from all investor types…Japanese, Real Money and Central Banks have been the largest – the market continues to under estimate the short base…,” which is another way of saying that Central Banks and investment firms have an enormous amount of cash to be put to work. And specifically for mortgages, banks have been very large buyers of MBS (per the H8 data). Monday was very quiet, with the 10-yr yield closing at 3.14% and MBS prices a shade better/higher as there is still a flight to safety bid on continued worries about European debt issues – particularly related to Greece.

Just before the funeral services, the undertaker came up to the very elderly widow and asked, “How old was your husband?”

“98,” she replied. “Two years older than me.”

“So you’re 96,” the undertaker commented.

She responded, “Hardly worth going home, isn’t it?”

Reporters interviewing a 104-year-old woman:

“And what do you think is the best thing about being 104?” the reporter asked.

She simply replied, “No peer pressure.”

I’m happy to announce that I will be writing a twice-a-month blog that you can access at the STRATMOR Group web site located at Each blog will address what I regard as an important topic or issue for our industry. My first blog, for example, considers the near and longer-term outlook for jumbo lending. Since you can comment on my blogs, I’m hoping each topic I address will generate a thoughtful dialogue.

Mortgage News Daily

Proposed QRM Rule Released, 20% Down Payment Required, by Michael Kraus,

New proposed risk-retention rules, required as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform were released today by the FDIC, according to a report from Fox News.

The new regulations would require mortgage originators to retain capital reserves equal to 5% of all but the safest mortgages. The mortgages that are exempt from the risk retention guidelines are termed “qualified residential mortgages” or QRMs. In order to qualify as a QRM, there must be a down payment of at least 20%. Additionally, anyone who has ever had a 60 day delinquency in their credit history will not qualify for a QRM. FHA loans will be exempt from the QRM rules, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages may also be exempt so long as these agencies are in government conservatorship.

As we’ve discussed in the past, there could be a number of side effects for borrowers, among them increased mortgage rates for anyone who doesn’t qualify for a QRM. Another one of the side effects could be that the FHA Mortgage Share could increase significantly as these loans are exempt from the QRM rule.

Sheila Bair, Chairman of the FDIC, spoke at an FDIC board meeting today and addressed the proposed rule. She said:

“In thinking about the impact of this proposed rule, we need to keep in mind the following facts:
First, the QRM requirements will not define the entire mortgage market, but only that segment that is exempt from risk retention. Lenders can – and will – find ways to provide credit on more flexible terms, but only if they then comply with the risk retention rules.
Second, what matters to underserved borrowers is not just the volume of credit that is available, but also the quality of that credit. More than half of the subprime loans made in 2006 and 2007 that were securitized ended up in default, which hurt both borrowers and investors and triggered the financial crisis. By aligning the interests of borrowers, securitizers and investors, our new rules will help to avoid these outcomes and keep default rates at much lower levels. They will also help avoid another securitization-fed housing bubble which made home prices unaffordable for many LMI borrowers.
Finally, the private securitization market, which created more than $1 trillion in mortgage credit annually in its peak years of 2005 and 2006, has virtually ceased to exist in the wake of the crisis. Issuance in 2009 and 2010 was just 5 percent of peak levels. This market needs strong rules that assure investors that the process is not rigged against them. The intent of this rulemaking is not to kill private mortgage securitization – the financial crisis has already done that. Our intent is to restore sound practices in lending, securitization and loan servicing, and bring this market back better than before.”
The majority of homeowners with mortgages in this country would be unable to refinance into a QRM due to a lack of home equity. Additionally, the vast number of people who have gone through foreclosure or have even been two months delinquent would be unable to get a QRM. All of these people will likely pay increased mortgage rates if they were to refinance or get a new mortgage. I totally understand the reasoning behind the QRM. It also strikes me as being a classic case of closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. What are your thoughts on the proposed rule? Let me know in the comments section below.

Cloud of suspense surrounds Bank of America, WikiLeaks, by Rick Rothacker,

Picture of Julian Assange during a talk at 26C3

Image via Wikipedia

Internal security stepped up after Assange announces plans for ‘megaleak’ about a large bank.

Heading into the new year, a big question looms for Bank of America: What’s next in the WikiLeaks saga?

Julian Assange, the anti-secrecy organization’s founder, has said he is preparing a “megaleak” about a large bank, leading to speculation the Charlotte bank is the target. On Monday, he told the Times of London that he had enough information to make the bosses of a major bank resign.

Meanwhile, Bank of America has cut off payments intended for WikiLeaks, spurring the group to tell customers to stop doing business with the bank. Other financial institutions that have foiled payments have faced cyberspace attacks from WikiLeaks supporters, but so far the bank doesn’t appear to be suffering ill effects.

Analysts say it’s possible WikiLeaks could stir up new trouble for the nation’s biggest bank, perhaps exposing more problems in the mortgage arena or reviving questions about its Merrill Lynch acquisition. It’s also possible the revelations cause little harm or that WikiLeaks bypasses the bank altogether.

Bert Ely, a Virginia-based banking consultant, said he suspects all major financial institutions are girding for the group’s next move.

“We don’t know it’s Bank of America,” he said. “It could be one of a number of banks.”

In recent months, WikiLeaks has gained notoriety for exposing Pentagon and State Department secrets and for Assange’s fight against sexual assault charges in Sweden. In November, he told Forbes magazine that his group planned a bank leak in early 2011. That drew attention to a 2009 article in which Assange said WikiLeaks had obtained a Bank of America executive’s hard drive.

Bank of America has said it has no evidence that WikiLeaks has company data but it has said little else on the subject. In a speech earlier this month, chief marketing officer Anne Finucane hinted Bank of America was steeled for any possible revelations, partly because it already has endured intense investigations of its 2008 Merrill deal.

“We have been out there pretty much 24/7, whether those of us who run communications like it or not, and we have learned not only to react, but deal with this as a given,” Finucane told a Boston audience.

A Bank of America employee told the Observer that it appeared the bank had stepped up security internally recently, taking steps to block access to websites such as Gmail on company laptops. The bank declined to comment on security procedures.

Analysts say they’re watching for the next development, which could cause new problems for a company still trying to recover from the financial crisis. When speculation surfaced on Nov. 30 that Bank of America could be WikiLeaks’ next target, the bank’s shares plunged more than 3 percent to $10.95. But since that drop-off, the bank’s shares have climbed nearly 15 percent to $12.98 at Tuesday’s close.

Jefferson Harralson, a bank analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, said WikiLeaks’ revelations are unlikely to highlight a new problem but could add more color around topics already in the news. The bank’s mortgage unit, bulked up by the 2008 Countrywide Financial acquisition, has been the biggest trouble spot lately. The most costly issue is requests by investors to buy back billions in soured mortgage loans originated and sold off by Countrywide during the housing bubble.

“The soft underbelly (for Bank of America) would be the mortgage crisis,” Harralson said.

Still, analysts already are braced for huge losses tied to mortgage loan repurchase requests. Harralson estimates the bank could spend $35 billion over five years buying back mortgages, although he suspects the amount could end up being less.

Ely, the banking consultant, said WikiLeaks could reveal information on a range of issues, from executives’ actions during the Merrill Lynch acquisition to who is using the company jet. One of the more damaging disclosures would be evidence of securities law violations, such as the manipulation of earnings or the failure to disclose material information to investors, he said.

“That can trigger lawsuits from shareholders and bring out the class-action bar,” he said.

The New York Times on Tuesday reported that regulators also are worried that WikiLeaks revelations could show failings by the agencies charged with overseeing the banking industry. Earlier this month, however, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairman Sheila Bair downplayed concerns about a leak. “I have a hard time understanding what would be so provocative,” she said after a speech. “So I would just ignore it, I really would.”

On Friday, Bank of America said it cut off payments to WikiLeaks because it had “reasonable belief that WikiLeaks may be engaged in activities that are, among other things, inconsistent with our internal policies for processing payments.” A bank spokesman declined to answer further questions.

Analysts said the bank could have a number of reasons for making the move, including pressure from the government, a desire to separate itself from possible criminal activities or revenge for obtaining its internal information.

Through its Twitter handle, WikiLeaks has encouraged Bank of America customers to close their accounts. The bank’s website doesn’t appear to be suffering from cyberspace attacks. Rich Mogull, analyst and chief executive at security research firm Securosis, said WikiLeaks supporters would need “massive resources” to dent the bank’s formidable defenses.

“Bank of America is always under attack,” Mogull said. “It’s one of the biggest targets on the Internet.”

In case of any leaks, Harralson said Bank of America is likely preparing its legal response, although that could be difficult against an “ephemeral” organization like WikiLeaks. “You can examine your legal options,” he said, “but it’s a hard organization to pin down.”

Read more: