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Report: Banks are meeting mortgage service rules; jury still out on Ocwen

Four giant banks that signed a $26-billion settlement of investigations into abuses of troubled mortgage borrowers appear to be complying with 304 best-practice standards imposed as part of the agreement, according to reports filed in federal court in Washington.

But the monitor for the 2012 national mortgage settlement did not issue an expected report on giant bill collector and foreclosure specialist Ocwen Financial Corp., saying an investigation into its compliance practices is not yet complete.

Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. passed every test of their procedures for handling borrowers who fall seriously delinquent on their home loans or are in foreclosure, reported Joseph A. Smith Jr., monitor of the national mortgage settlement.

Citigroup Inc. detected its own failure to comply with one loan-modification practice and was already correcting the flaw when the bank alerted Smith to the problem, he said Tuesday.

“I am pleased to see that the servicers are adhering to the NMS’ servicing rules, which aim to ensure borrowers have better experiences,” Smith said.

The settlement stemmed from a series of scandals related to the wave of foreclosures that swept the country beginning in 2007. The abuses included the so-called robo-signing of foreclosure documents by officials who had no knowledge of the facts in the documents. Other abuses involved lost paperwork and improper fees, as well as other legal shortcuts.

It was the fifth set of reports on the banks’ mortgage customer-service performance filed by Smith, whose staff and outside auditors performed more than 30 tests on the banks during the second half of 2014.

Also tested were two large non-bank specialists -- Green Tree Servicing and Ocwen -- that focus on mortgage servicing and foreclosures.

Those firms bought the rights to service customers of another party to the national mortgage settlement, Ally Financial Inc., which was formerly known as GMAC Inc.

Green Tree, once found to be out of compliance with a wide range of the servicing standards, passed every test performed in late 2014, Smith said.

Smith said Ocwen's report was withheld because of a separate investigation that began last year into flaws in the company’s self-testing for compliance.

Ocwen, based in Atlanta, has repeatedly settled regulatory accusations that it mishandled borrowers, including the backdating of time-sensitive letters denying loan modifications to distressed homeowners.

In a national settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last year, Ocwen agreed to provide $268 million in relief to California homeowners over alleged foreclosure abuses, part of $2 billion in principal reductions for borrowers whose homes were worth less than the mortgages on them.

In a separate settlement in New York, Ocwen agreed to pay $150 million for the relief of homeowners in that state.

The California Department of Business Oversight this month named an auditor to perform its own assessment of whether the company is complying with state and federal laws.

Separately this month, the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said Wells Fargo, Chase and four other banks still aren't fully complying with mortgage customer-service standards imposed four years ago by the OCC, a U.S. Treasury Department agency that regulates national banks.

Follow @ScottReckard for news of banks and home loans

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