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BLOOMBERG | U.S. Regulators Zero In on Loan Servicers to Fix Foreclosures

BLOOMBERG | U.S. Regulators Zero In on Loan Servicers to Fix Foreclosures

MERS could be “harnessed by Congress and the industry to improve the mortgage finance system,” R.K. Arnold, its president and CEO, told a House subcommittee in November. Arnold retired this month.

U.S. mortgage servicers face a new era of tighter oversight as regulators seek to cut the number of botched foreclosures and increase loan modifications for struggling borrowers.

The industry, which oversees $10.6 trillion in loans, has been overwhelmed by more than 3 million foreclosures since 2006. The housing-market collapse exposed failures — in the way servicers are paid, track loans and process property seizures — that threaten to stall a fledgling rebound in prices and sales.

“If we fail to act decisively now to deal with the foreclosure crisis, we risk triggering a double-dip in U.S. housing markets,” Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., said in a Jan. 19 speech to mortgage-industry executives in Washington. “The problem is serious, and the need for action is urgent.”

Changes being studied include a new fee structure for servicers, independent reviews of rejected requests to ease loan terms and a fund to compensate victims of improper foreclosures, according to Bair and other federal and state regulators. Lawmakers have proposed reining in the privately run Merscorp Inc., even as the company says it could serve as a national mortgage registry.

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