Monthly Archives: September 2015

Wall Street banks are tracking everything employees do

A Brave New World…Big brother banksters are watching you…

Wall Street banks are amping up their Big Brother powers — hiring high-tech surveillance firms that can track nearly every move their employees make, from social media to the dark web and even if there is any irregular ATM activity on their bank accounts, The Post has learned.

The moves by the banks — to protect themselves from stiff fines and to finger potential law-breakers on the payroll — come as the Department of Justice said this month that it would seek to nail individuals during probes and that banks would be expected to cooperate if they wanted leniency in settlements, sources said.

The new tactics may raise eyebrows in some corners of the financial world, but this brave new regulatory world could become the norm.

Read on.

Swiss watchdog opens bank probe into precious metal collusion

Here are the details that should come as a surprise to nobody:

Global precious metals trading has been under regulatory scrutiny since December 2013, when German banking regulator Bafin demanded documents from Deutsche Bank under an inquiry into suspected manipulation of gold and silver benchmarks by banks. Even though the market has moved to reform the process of deciding on its price benchmarks, accusations of manipulation have refused to go away.

Switzerland’s WEKO said its investigation, the result of a preliminary probe, was looking at whether UBS, Julius Baer, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Barclays, Morgan Stanley and Mitsui conspired to set bid/ask spreads.

“It (WEKO) has indications that possible prohibited competitive agreements in the trading of precious metals were agreed among the banks mentioned,” WEKO said in a statement.

Big banks abusing 2012 settlement deal: Weak oversight means banks can get away with foreclosing on homeowners in middle of negotiations


The nation’s largest mortgage lenders are violating the terms of a punitive 2012 settlement that was meant to prevent unfair and unnecessary foreclosures that destroyed communities and pushed working families from their homes.

Interviews by POLITICO with more than 20 housing counselors, Legal Aid lawyers and government prosecutors in states hard hit by the real estate crisis that followed the 2007 financial meltdown reveal that the nation’s top lenders are violating the settlement and rules put in place last year by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In some cases, the problems — repeated requests for the same documents, for example — stem from ongoing disorganization deep inside the loan servicing departments of the banks, but some homeowners and their representatives claim the issues are a deliberate attempt to use foreclosure to resolve cases that have lingered for years.

In 2012, as 49 state attorneys general and the Holder Justice Department announced the landmark $25 billion accord with five of the nation’s biggest lenders, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper spoke for many when he declared: “If homeowners get the runaround for a modification, if homes are foreclosed before other options expire, the monitor and the courts can step in and make it right.”

The AGs were especially inflamed by stories of banks that continued to accept payments from financially strapped borrowers even as they quietly filed paperwork to take back the homes.

But the abuses haven’t stopped. Since the beginning of 2014, more than 60,000 complaints have been filed nationwide by borrowers about servicers rushing the foreclosure process or mishandling a modification request, according to POLITICO’s review of the bureau’s database. But the complaints likely underestimate the problem because most homeowners have no idea the database exists, according to counselors and attorneys. More than 469,000 U.S. homeowners are in some stage of foreclosure as of July, with another 1.3 million in serious delinquency, according to the most recent data from CoreLogic.)

The settlement was almost three years old when Kimberly Cook, a single mom in her 30s, walked into the local deed office in Washington, D.C., worried that after a year of haggling, Bank of America had changed its mind about renegotiating her loan. She had made months of reduced payments on a trial basis, but bank representatives were now telling her that she had improperly signed documents — she had failed to use her middle initial, for example — and that she had not submitted an obscure document that isn’t even required by other lenders. A clerk confirmed her fears, telling her that the bank had filed papers a month before in preparation for foreclosure.

“She said ‘you’re not the first person who’s come down here,’” Cook said. “I just lost it. I was just scared.”

Bank of America denies that it misled Cook, insisting that her inability to submit the proper paperwork was the reason for delays and aborted attempts to permanently reduce her loan. But Cook’s ordeal, which required an attorney to sort out, has the hallmarks of the runaround that prosecutors had vowed to crack down on.

The abuses by lenders continue, POLITICO has found, because the settlement deal was crafted in a way that limited oversight and gave banks a wide enough margin of error that they wouldn’t be held accountable if they continued their bad practices. Lawmakers are waking up to the consequences of the cushy deal, as are current and former state prosecutors who say that civil investigations are underway.

“There have been multiple settlements requiring banks to change their servicing practices,” House Oversight Committee top Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland said in an emailed statement, “but it is clear that abusive practices continue.”


Germany investigates VW’s ex-boss over fraud allegations

German prosecutors launched an investigation on Monday into fraud allegations against former Volkswagen boss Martin Winterkorn, showing their determination to get quickly to the bottom of a scandal over rigged emissions tests that has rocked the global car industry.

The German company also suspended three top engineers, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters, as it tries to get to grips with a crisis that has knocked more than a third off its market value and could harm Germany’s economy.

Volkswagen has admitted cheating diesel emissions tests in the United States but Germany’s transport minister says it also manipulated tests in Europe, where it has much bigger sales, and it faces the worst business crisis in its 78-year history.

Read on.

And there is more:


Lenders want Congress to stop FHFA rule change


Lenders and housing advocates are not happy that proposed new rule from the Federal Housing Finance Agency alters membership requirements in the Federal Home Loan Bank system.

The Mortgage Bankers Association and a coalition sent a letter to House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Ranking Member Maxine Waters, D-Calif., expressing concern with FHFA’s proposed rule changes.

The letter was signed by MBA, Habitat for Humanity International, Independent Community Bankers of America and
National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts signed the letter, which states:

The undersigned associations, representing thousands of institutions that are dedicated to housing finance in America, are writing to express our concerns with a proposed rulemaking (the Proposed Rule) currently under consideration by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). The Proposed Rule, which was published for notice and comment in September 2014, would make harmful changes to the Federal Home Loan Bank System’s (the System) membership requirements. It also raises significant concerns regarding legislative intent and the fulfillment of the System’s overall mission. Notably, members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate submitted letters during the notice and comment period, voicing their strong opposition to the changes proposed by FHFA.

We respectfully urge Congress to prohibit this Proposed Rule from taking effect. Congress should also direct FHFA to consult with stakeholders to evaluate an appropriate membership structure to allow the System to best serve its mission in the 21st Century.

Here’s how the CFPB made mortgages easier in rural, underserved areas

The mortgage regulation burden for small creditors lightened quite a bit after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced changes to its mortgage rules to expand access to credit to small creditors in earlier Sepetember.

A big change in the new CFPB rules is the definition of a “small creditor”:

he loan origination limit for small-creditor status will be raised from 500 first-lien mortgage loans to 2,000 and will exclude loans held in portfolio by the creditor and its affiliates.

Steve VanSickler, chief credit officer of Silver State Schools Credit Union, one of the credit unions impacted by the changes, explained that the new laws help significantly with the burden of proof in a courtroom.

“What we have been trying to do is avoid a legal battle. A Qualified Mortgage changes the burden of proof in the court of law. Since we were not doing QM loans, we took steps with disclosures,” VanSickler.

Read on.

Ocwen Violated TCPA With 218 Calls, Fla. Jury Finds

What else is new…

Law360, Los Angeles (September 23, 2015, 11:01 PM ET) — A Florida federal jury found on Wednesday that Ocwen Loan Servicing Inc. violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by making 218 unauthorized calls to a woman’s cellphone in an alleged attempt to collect a mortgage loan debt that had been discharged in bankruptcy.
The jury unanimously decided on the third day of trial that Ocwen willfully or knowingly violated the TCPA by making the calls with an automatic dialing system to Rolena Drew. Ocwen allegedly called Drew’s cellphone multiple times per day and on back-to-back days.

The plaintiff claimed the roughly $92,500 delinquent debt that Ocwen was trying to collect had previously been discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Ocwen claimed it hadn’t known the debt had been discharged and would have handled the matter differently had it known.

Read on.