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Housing Regulator Falls Short On Robo-Signing

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Federal Housing Finance Agency's Office of Inspector General said in its latest report critical of the Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC) regulator that the agency still had no policies to address abusive foreclosure practices by law firms representing the mortgage giants.

Fannie and Freddie were taken under government conservatorship in September 2008. As of June 9, according to the FHFA, the U.S. Treasury had "invested over $162 billion of public funds in [the two mortgage enterprises] to offset their losses and prevent their insolvency."

The FHFA's Inspector General began a review of Fannie Mae's Retained Attorney Service Network, or RAN, in late 2010, following a request from Representative Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) that the Inspector General investigate "widespread allegations of abuse" by law firms hired to process foreclosures for Fannie Mae, and FHFA's efforts "to investigate these allegations and implement corrective action."

The Inspector General found that "there were indicators prior to August 2010 [when various media reports surfaced, covering "robo-signing" and other sloppy or abusive foreclosure practices] that could have led FHFA to identify the heightened risk posed by foreclosure processing within Fannie Mae's RAN."

The Inspector General said that the "FHFA has not developed formal policies to address poor performance by law firms that have relationships," and has "identified instances where Freddie Mac terminated for poor performance law firms that processed foreclosures on its behalf, but Fannie Mae continued to use the firms."

In its response to the Inspector General's recommendations that the agency implement policies to address poor performance by law firms handling loan "default-related legal services" for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the FHFA said it would "ensure that appropriate steps are taken by September 29, 2012 to remediate [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's] deficiencies in the management of risks associated with default-related legal services vendors."

-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

To contact the writer, click here: Philip van Doorn.

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Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.

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