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Washington Archive

Washington

Inside Washington (12/22/2011)

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  • WASHINGTON (12/27/11)--North Carolina U.S. Reps. Brad Miller (D) and Walter Jones (R) called on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) that resulted in the foreclosure of active duty servicemembers' homes while some served in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Miller and Jones cited the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's (OCC) requirement to review some 5,000 improper foreclosures on military personnel by 10 mortgage servicers or banks that may be in violation of the SCRA. "The SCRA is not some obscure legal technicality that might just have escaped the attention of mortgage servicers," Miller said. "Those servicers are all affiliates of the biggest banks, but they're huge and specialized. Servicing mortgages is all they do, and they really don't have that many laws to keep up with. They have got to have known what the law required, and consciously decided that they could just ignore it, the same way they apparently decided it was okay to file false affidavits in legal proceedings," he added …
  • WASHINGTON (12/27/11)--The Federal Housing Finance Agency may introduce a program to help underwater homeowners who have filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection. Pending the approval of the bankruptcy judge, borrowers would make principal-only payments for five years on Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgages (American Banker Dec. 22). Borrowers' payments would be lower because interest would not be included under the plan, which was devised by bankrupty lawyers. The repayment plan also includes credit card and other unsecured debt, so borrowers have a better chance of remaining in their homes …
  • WASHINGTON (12/27/11)--The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) will extend implementation dates for a key component of the Uniform Mortgage Data Program (UMDP). Specifically, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will delay the voluntary implementation of the Uniform Loan Delivery Dataset (ULDD) until April 23 and will require loan delivery in the new format on July 23 instead of in March. The new timeline for the ULDD does not affect Uniform Collateral Data Portal effective dates. Fannie and Freddie's UMDP initiative was designed to improve the consistency and quality of data for appraisals and other loan information …

CUNA asks OMB to back regulatory moratorium

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WASHINGTON (12/27/11)--An overwhelming, yet growing, regulatory burden on smaller institutions presents very serious concerns for credit unions – and can be addressed by a presidential executive order calling for a moratorium on new rules, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Bill Cheney said in a recent letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The letter, which was sent to OMB Administrator Cass Sunstein, urged the administrator to call on President Barack Obama to issue another executive order to independent regulatory agencies calling for a moratorium on new rules that would impose "regulatory burdens that are not required by statute or necessitated by serious, material, quantifiable and well-documented safety and soundness concerns."

Obama in an executive order issued earlier this year called on the National Credit Union Administration and other regulators to improve the regulatory environment for entities under their jurisdiction, and to report back to OMB how they were taking action. This was a positive step, Cheney said, but credit unions and other financial institutions "are in great need of meaningful regulatory relief – the kind of relief that they have not seen as of yet."

Cheney said CUNA was not suggesting that regulators ignore "significant safety and soundness issues or statutory directives," but said a regulatory moratorium could help regulators fully examine the impact of their current rules, and assess the results of any regulatory cutbacks they have made following this year's executive order.

The CUNA leader also urged the OMB chief to consider establishing an Office of Regulatory Burden Monitoring, which would focus on measuring and scrutinizing the extent of the regulatory burdens that entities, such as credit unions, must bear. "Such an office could also give regulated entities additional recourse in terms of having their regulatory burdens reviewed," Cheney wrote.

For the full CUNA letter, use the resource link.

Mortgage rates at record lows as 2011 ends

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WASHINGTON (12/27/11)--Thirty-year fixed mortgages reached a new low in the week ended Dec. 22, averaging 3.91%, Freddie Mac reported last week.

The previous record low of 3.94% was set the week ended Dec. 15.

Fifteen-year fixed-rate mortgages remained steady, continuing at last week's record low average of 3.21%.

Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft noted that the historically low 30-year fixed mortgage rates, which have been "at or below 4% for the last eight weeks and now are almost 0.9 percentage points below where they were at the beginning of the year,"  are helping homebuyers save $1,200 more per year on a $200,000 loan.

Adjustable-rate mortgages also reached all-time lows last week, as five-year, Treasury-indexed, hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) averaged 2.85% and one-year Treasury-indexed ARMs averaged 2.77%.

"This greater affordability helped push existing home sales higher for the second consecutive month in November to an annualized pace of 4.42 million, the most since January," and new construction and homebuilder confidence have also been on the uptick, Nothaft added.