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Settlement Monitor Talks Selection Process for Primary Firm

The ""Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight"":https://www.mortgageoversight.com/ continues to evolve as the monitor, a widely respected banking and housing finance chief, takes on new help from accounting and legal firms.

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""Joseph A. Smith, Jr."":https://www.mortgageoversight.com/about-the-office-of-mortgage-settlement-oversight/, onetime ""Federal Housing Finance Agency"":http://www.fhfa.gov/ director-nominee, now responsible for overseeing servicer compliance under the $25 billion settlement, ""revealed"":https://themreport.com/articles/settlement-monitor-selects-primary-firm-to-oversee-servicers-2012-06-04 Monday that ""BDO USA, LLP"":http://www.bdo.com/, would serve as the Raleigh, North Carolina-based office's eyes and ears.

He tells us in a Wednesday interview that the selection process was ""fairly expensive and exhaustive,"" entailing requests for statements of interest from 40 or more accounting firms. It took a series of interviews and sit-downs to clear finalists.

The benchmark: Whether they could work well with the monitor himself.

""We selected [BDO] and they're working right now ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô like a house is on fire,"" he says.

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The national accounting firm will work alongside new office personnel, secondary firms, and legal teams as Smith reviews the transmission of funds from the big five ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô ""Ally Financial"":http://www.ally.com/financial/, ""Bank of America"":https://www.bankofamerica.com/, ""Chase"":https://www.chase.com/, ""Citigroup"":http://www.citigroup.com/citi/, and ""Wells Fargo"":https://www.wellsfargo.com/ ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô to coffers in 49 states and the federal government.

He tells us the next move the office will make is ""hire the secondary firms. We're going to do that at the same time that we approve works plans,"" the reporting processes and procedures servicers will need to undertake in order to satisfactorily meet settlement terms and conditions.

""I feel really great in selecting a [primary professional firm] because that gives me what I need to complete this work in a timely and effective way,"" he adds.

Speculation ran high on how Smith and his office would gauge the abilities of servicers to meet terms and conditions in the lead-up to the selection of BDO.

The monitor, one full-time staff member, other contractors, and other firms will personally oversee billions in settlement funds over the next three to four years. These include $10 billion in principal reductions, $7 billion in forbearance for unemployed homeowners, $3 billion in refinance opportunities for current homeowners, plus another $5 billion in payments to government authorities.

Asked how the firm will interact with servicers, Smith elaborates by saying that the office continues to hold weekly calls with bank representatives. He says that BDO will join the call with the banks for the first time this week.

""I think they can expect to continue to be engaged with me on a weekly basis,"" he tells us. ""The same will be true of BDO.""

About Author: Ryan Schuette

Ryan Schuette is a journalist, cartoonist, and social entrepreneur with several years of experience in real-estate news, international reporting, and business management. He currently lives in the Washington, D.C., area, where he freelances for DS News and MReport.
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