It did not take long after the Silicon Valley Bank failure for politicians in Washington to rush to the next available microphone and lament the “loosening of bank regulations”. Instinctively the finger pointing began, and in many quarters ended up in the direction of the prior administration’s policy to generally roll back stringent business regulations and allow free market decisions to govern various industries. Chief among the complainants (no pun intended) was Sen Elizabeth Warren, who emerged out of the 2008 crisis as an architect and advocate for the Wall Street Reform Act and the creation of the vaunted Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ( CFPB), which she briefly directed. Just yesterday in DC’s The Hill publication, Sen Warren was reported as blaming the the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank on Republicans in Congress, which in 2018 helped pass a law to ease bank regulations put in place following the 2008 financial crisis. “No one should be mistaken about what unfolded over the past few days in the U.S. banking system: These recent bank failures are the direct result of leaders in Washington weakening the financial rules,” Warren is quoted as saying. According to The Hill piece, Warren, who voted against the 2018 bank deregulation bill, said that the crises would have been avoided if the banks were required to hold more liquid assets because the bill exempted banks with less than $250 billion in assets from rigorous Fed stress tests. Warren and other Democrats say the old rules could have caught the issues at SVB sooner. Given that politicians generally “never let a crisis go to waste,” many now suspect that the banking industry is about to be slammed with heightened regulatory scrutiny, tighter operational rules, more audits and exams, and larger and very public fines, penalties and consent orders. What does this mean for independent mortgage bankers (IMBs)? It means that they have to get back to the compliance mindset they were frightened into adopting between 2008 and 2018, and before the bottoming out of interest rates led everyone to believe that easy money was here to stay and that self-regulation meant hiring more loan officers. Keep those risk management officers and compliance directors close by folks, we are all in for a bumpy ride on the regulatory
According to an article published today in Mortgage Professional America, the former CEO of LandCastle Title, who also served as the managing partner of a real estate law firm, will spend 15 years in federal prison for orchestrating a scheme to bilk his firm out of millions of dollars.
Nathan E. Hardwick IV, 53, operated both LandCastle Title and Morris Hardwick Schneider, a law firm that specialized in residential real estate closings and foreclosures. He was convicted in October of wire fraud, conspiracy, and making false statements to a federally insured financial institution.
Real estate attorneys and title professionals have access to lender funds, lender loan documents (including the note and mortgage), are charged with satisfying liens and judgments and ensuring lien priority. They also have direct access to consumers and all of the consumer’s personal and financial information. One a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest risk tier, settlement agents are in Tier 10.
Lenders must have a comprehensive, ongoing program of evaluating, rating, monitoring such risk as well as taking immediately steps to alter or disengage in any relationship that may cause harm.
Title and closing fraud are, by most estimates, a nearly $1 Billion dollar annual problem. If you add in wire fraud the numbers escalate.
Ignoring this risk will not make it go away. The Nathan Hardwicks of the industry will make sure of that. Be vigilant and remember our motto: “trust, but verify.”