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On March 9, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) released a “scorecard” that details the implementation of its recently released strategic plan for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The scorecard provides specific measures Fannie and Freddie will take in executing the strategic plan. It also identifies timetables for implementation of each objective. Contemporaneously, the FHFA released details of its 2012 compensation program for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives. The program reduces total direct compensation by ten percent and eliminates bonuses. The program also sets $500,000 as the target annual salary for new CEOs.
On February 29, Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2012-06, which details Freddie Mac’s implementation of an upcoming increase in required spreads. As previously announced, effective April 1, 2012, Freddie Mac is increasing the required spreads for all products by 10 basis points. For Mortgages sold through the Freddie Mac Selling System Selling System, the 10 basis point increase is being implemented through the use of g-fee add-on functionality, and Freddie Mac has created a new Guide exhibit identifying the 10 basis point increase as the “Payroll Tax Cut Act Gfee Add-On.” Freddie Mac also has made a commensurate change in the pricing Sellers receive for Mortgages sold under the cash program. For all other delivery paths and executions, the 10 basis point increase will be reflected in the pricing provided to sellers.
On February 21, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) submitted a strategic plan outlining the next phase of its conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises). FHFA’s plan is in part a response to requests from lawmakers, including requests made during a December 2011 hearing. FHFA states that it will seek to build a new infrastructure for the secondary mortgage market, contract the Enterprises’ current market dominance, and maintain the Enterprises’ roles in foreclosure prevention activities and refinance initiatives. FHFA also outlines the legal authority under which it plans to act.
Until Congress can enact broader housing finance reform, FHFA envisions moving the Enterprises into a single open-architecture securitization platform that could become a type of public utility that would outlast the Enterprises. This move would also be accompanied by uniform standards for underwriting, disclosures, and servicing, and a robust and standard pooling and servicing agreement. FHFA will also contract Enterprise operations by (i) working to shift mortgage credit risk to private investors through some combination of increasing the g-fee, establishing loss sharing arrangements, and/or expanding reliance on mortgage insurance; (ii) directing the Enterprises to conduct a market analysis of the viability of their multifamily operations without government guarantees; and (iii) considering whether to retain each Enterprise's capital markets expertise to manage portfolios, or to hire a third-party investment firm to manage the portfolios. Finally, the FHFA asserts that it will maintain foreclosure prevention efforts and credit availability by (i) continuing existing programs such as the Servicing Alignment Initiative, HARP, and REO disposition initiatives; (ii) aligning and making policies for representations and warranties more transparent, in conjunction with the ongoing Uniform Mortgage Data Program; and (iii) pursuing lawsuits alleging securities law violations in private-label mortgage-backed securities purchased by the Enterprises.
The FHFA paper notes that these strategic goals and plans are consistent with each of the housing finance reform options identified in a February 2011 Obama administration report to Congress, as well as "leading legislative proposals." However, the paper also reminds legislators that fully addressing the Enterprises and the federal government's role in the secondary mortgage market will require congressional action, which should not be impaired by the FHFA's immediate pursuit of its strategic goals. For additional details on the strategic plan, please click here.
On February 15, Freddie Mac published Single Family Seller/Servicer Guide Bulletin 2012-5 to implement new requirements related to the City of Chicago’s Vacant Property Ordinance. As previously reported, the FHFA sued Chicago over the ordinance, which requires lenders to register vacant properties and pay a $500 registration fee per property. Whether the property has been foreclosed upon or not, the ordinance also imposes maintenance and other obligations on lenders and their agents (including servicers, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac), and includes fines for non-compliance. The Bulletin, which follows up on a December 12 industry notice, establishes procedures for tracking and submitting expenses incurred pursuant to the ordinance and directs servicers to make required payments “under protest.” The Bulletin also eliminates the requirement for servicers to obtain prior consent from Freddie Mac to decline an application for a Mortgage assumption and reinforces the requirement that the servicer, for itself and on behalf of Freddie Mac, must waive all rights to seek deficiencies for short payoffs and deed-in-lieu of foreclosure transactions on Freddie Mac mortgages that have closed in accordance with the Guide.
Fannie Mae Discontinues National Monthly Median Cost of Funds Index and Revises Delinquency Status Code Descriptions
On February 15, Fannie Mae issued a notice to servicers advising that, effective March 15, 2012, servicers must use the Federal Cost of Funds Index published by Freddie Mac instead of the National Monthly Median Cost of Funds Index for adjustable rate mortgages. Also on February 15, Fannie Mae issued a servicing notice to clarify the descriptions of certain mandatory effective or completion date requirements for delinquency status codes announced in June 2011.
Freddie Mac Updates Selling Guide Regarding Guaranteed Rural Housing and Newly Constructed Homes, Advises Sellers Regarding SEC Disclosures
On February 10, Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2012-4 with updates to the Single Family Seller/Servicer Guide regarding mortgages for newly constructed homes and mortgages under the Rural Housing Service’s Guaranteed Rural Housing (GRH) loan program. Effective immediately, the terms “Newly Built Home Mortgage” and “Mortgages for Newly Constructed Homes” have been removed from the Guide as unnecessary in light of other changes. With respect to nonassumable GRH mortgages, effective as to settlements on or after June 1, 2012, such loans must be sold to Freddie Mac with recourse and with Freddie Mac’s written approval in the Purchase Documents, but a minimum Indicator Score of 620 is no longer required.
On the same day, Freddie Mac advised all sellers that it had filed its initial report pursuant to a new SEC rule requiring public disclosure of information regarding asset-backed securities loan repurchase requests, including the identity of the originator. It will continue to disclose such information in quarterly reports to the SEC beginning in May 2012.
On February 1, President Obama unveiled a plan to expand government support for the housing market, including a broad-based refinancing plan. The plan, announced during the President's State of the Union Address, combines changes to existing programs and creation of new initiatives, some of which will require congressional action. First, the President will ask Congress to enact legislation to allow the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to provide government support for the refinancing of non-Fannie Mae and non-Freddie Mac mortgages. The $5 to $10 billion program would be funded by a fee imposed on the largest financial institutions. For borrowers with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loans, the legislation would further streamline existing refinance programs and create incentives for borrowers to accept shorter loan terms to build equity. Second, the administration will continue its work to create new mortgage origination and servicing standards in an effort to create a Homeowner Bill of Rights. Third, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) will conduct a pilot program through which it will sell foreclosed properties to be transitioned into rental housing. Finally, the President's upcoming budget will include a national program to put unemployed construction workers back to work refurbishing vacant and foreclosed properties.
The President also highlighted the work of the recently-formed Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, and reviewed the success of existing government efforts (e.g., those related to unemployment forbearance). Further, the announcement incorporated a Treasury Department move last week to enhance the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) by (i) extending HAMP's deadline through December 31, 2013, (ii) expanding borrower eligibility for HAMP, and (iii) encouraging use of principal reduction for loans insured or owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. In response, the FHFA reiterated its opposition to use of principal reduction by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
On January 31, Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2012-3 to formally extend the Uniform Loan Delivery Dataset (ULDD) implementation schedule, consistent with an earlier announcement. ULDD mandatory compliance is now required for all loans submitted to Freddie Mac on or after July 23, 2012 (previously March 19, 2012). To provide a transition period, Freddie Mac will update its system for the ULDD data points on April 23, 2012 (previously January 23, 2012). The Bulletin also alerts sellers as to the Single-Family Seller/Servicer Guide updates requiring new ULDD data points for all mortgages with application received dates on or after August 1, 2012 that are delivered on or after November 26, 2012. Lastly, the Bulletin notifies sellers that Appendix A of the Implementation Guide for Loan Delivery Data has been updated to reflect these changes.
On January 23, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the entity serving as conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, released a letter sent to certain members of Congress describing the internal analyses that resulted in FHFA’s decision not to use principal forgiveness as part of Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s loan modification programs. In short, the letter and analyses support FHFA’s previous publicly-stated conclusion that FHFA lacks statutory authority to incur the taxpayer losses that would result from the use of principal forgiveness. The letter concludes that “forbearance achieves marginally lower losses for the taxpayer than forgiveness,” but both provide the same more affordable payment for the borrower. The additional costs of principal forgiveness would not be offset by preservation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac assets.
On January 6, Freddie Mac published Bulletin 2012-2, which allows servicers to offer eligible borrowers a short-term unemployment forbearance period, and the possibility of an extended unemployment forbearance period, if needed. On January 11, Fannie Mae followed with Servicer Guide Announcement SVC-2012-01, implementing a substantially similar program. Under the new programs, servicers may suspend or reduce an eligible borrower’s mortgage payments for a period of six months. With approval from Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, respectively, servicers also may extend the six-month forbearance period for up to an additional six months, provided that the period does not extend beyond a date that would cause the delinquency to exceed twelve months. Further, following an unemployment forbearance period, a borrower may be re-evaluated for a new Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) or non-HAMP trial-period plan if the borrower was complying with the terms of the existing trial plan before obtaining unemployment forbearance. Under the Freddie Mac program, servicers must incorporate unemployment forbearance into their operations by February 1, 2012, but servicers have until March 1, 2012 to comply under the Fannie Mae program.