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U.S. Audit Cites OCC Lapses in Oversight of Foreclosure Process

businessweek.comJune 1, 2012

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency underestimated the risks in bank foreclosure practices from 2008 to 2010 and gave examiners a 13-year-old handbook that didn’t address how securitization affects loan documentation, a Treasury Department audit found.

Treasury’s inspector general’s office reviewed the OCC’s work in the years following the onset of the credit crisis. The period was later found to be rife with abusive foreclosure practices including use of fraudulent documentation by servicers. Five major banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) (JPM), Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) (WFC), settled claims from 49 states and the federal government for $25 billion on Feb. 9.

“During this time OCC did not consider foreclosure documentation and processing to be an area of significant risk and, as a result, did not focus examination resources on this function,” Jeffrey Dye, the inspector general’s director of banking audits, wrote in the May 31 report.

In missing what “turned out to be serious foreclosure issues,” the OCC relied too heavily on the banks’ own internal quality-control procedures, he said. The bank programs, in turn, focused on loss mitigation and compliance with investor guidelines, not foreclosure documentation, the report found.

The inspector general also faulted the OCC, the primary federal supervisor for national banks, for failing to update its handbook on mortgage banking examinations for 13 years. The guide didn’t address the effects of securitization or new mortgage products that were at the heart of the housing bust, the report concludes.

Comptroller Thomas Curry told the inspector general in a May 15 letter that the OCC manual will be updated, but stressed that the agency issued supplemental guidance to examiners in 2006 and 2007.

OCC spokesman Robert Garsson declined to comment on the Treasury report.


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