A+ Mortgage Receives an F from HUD

I spent part of last week at an FHA conference and had a chance to learn all about their upcoming changes which Rhonda blogged about here.

In the past I have been critical about the lack of HUD auditors regulating their laws.  Regulation has mostly been left up to state agencies. Personally, I’ve only seen a HUD auditor once in my career and that was back in the mid 1980s during a routine FHA audit. I will now retract my criticism of HUD. They have more than made up for it with this searing audit of mortgage broker A+ Mortgage.

As of June 6, 2008, A+ Mortgage had one main Washington State office and 44 branch offices doing business under trade names such as “Kingdom Consulting,” “Resiliant Mortgage,” “Majestic Mortgage,” and “Extreme Home Lending.” HUD audited A Plus Mortgage to find out whether FHA borrowers were being overcharged and if loan originators were W-2 employees of A Plus, which is an FHA requirement. Here is what HUD found:

“A Plus disregarded HUD FHA requirements and provisions of RESPA and engaged in deceptive lending practices to maximize profits for itself and the independent contractors that used A Plus as a conduit for submission of loans for FHA insurance. Although A+ Mortgage informed borrowers that they could receive a lower interest rate on their loans by paying up-front points and fees, A Plus charged loan discount fees to borrowers without reducing interest rates on the mortgages. This practice allowed A Plus to generate high interest rate loans for which A Plus’s sponsor lenders paid A Plus a yield spread premium when the loans closed escrow. As a result, borrowers paid excessive interest and fees for which they received no benefit. In addition, all 28 FHA-insured A Plus loans reviewed were originated by independent contractors, unapproved branches, or other non-FHA-approved mortgage broker firms…A Plus ignored FHA origination requirements and submitted FHA loans originated by unapproved entities in exchange for a percentage of the loan origination fees, loan discount fees, and YSPs.”

HUD is recommending that A+ returned unearned fees totalling $153,110 to consumers, schedule a review of ALL of their FHA loans, and return all loan origination fees totally $32,026 to consumers on all loans that were originated by independent contractors. Recall that FHA loans must be originated by W-2 employees. I’m often asked why.

FHA says that loans originated under its program must be done by people who are under the lender’s exclusive control and supervision. HUD requires FHA-approved lenders to exercise responsible management supervision over its employees, including regular, ongoing, documented performance reviews of their work. By definition, independent contractors are unsupervised. For the reference, see HUD Handbook, 4060.1, Rev-2, paragraph 2-9(D).