FDIC, bank reach RESPA settlement
On November 6, the FDIC announced that a Washington-based bank agreed to settle allegations that it violated RESPA by paying fees to real estate brokers and homebuilders in exchange for mortgage business referrals. Section 8(a) of RESPA “prohibits giving or accepting a thing of value for the referral of settlement service involving a federally related mortgage loan.” According to the FDIC, the bank’s discontinued mortgage banking line allegedly entered into arrangements with real estate brokers and homebuilders to co-market services through online platforms. The FDIC also alleged that the bank’s mortgage banking business rented desk space in brokers’ and homebuilders’ offices, which resulted in the payment of fees by the bank for referrals of mortgage loan business. The FDIC further stated, “While co-marketing arrangements and desk rental agreements are permissible where the fees paid bear a reasonable relationship to the fair market value of marketing or rental costs, such arrangements and agreements violate RESPA when the amounts paid exceed fair market value and the excess is for referrals of mortgage business.” The bank, which has neither admitted nor denied the charges, has agreed to pay a $1.35 million civil money penalty under the terms of the settlement order, and has terminated all of its co-marketing and desk rental agreements.