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Investors, Experts React to Ocwen Settlement

paying-moneyA day after Ocwen Financial Corp. announced a multi-million dollar agreement to resolve investigations by New York's top regulator, investors and market watchers remain skeptical that the company's problems are settled.

On Monday, the Atlanta-based firm—one of the biggest mortgage servicers in the nation and the largest subprime servicer—announced it had agreed to pay $150 million for homeowner relief over allegations it conducted improper foreclosure procedures, used outdated and conflicting systems in managing its portfolio, and was involved in transactions with related companies that constituted conflicts of interest.

In addition to the monetary settlement, Ocwen agreed to add two independent directors to its board and to install an independent monitor to supervise processes for up to three years. The agreement also included the resignation of Ocwen founder and executive chair William Erbey, who will leave the company in January.

While the settlement brings an end to ongoing probes conducted by the New York Department of Financial Services and its chief, Benjamin Lawsky, the firm's investors appear to remain shaken. Ocwen's stock dropped 31 percent on Monday following the announcement, recovering slightly to finish the day at $16.01 (down 27 percent). The stock fell another 6.2 percent on Tuesday to close at $15.02.

Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings maintained its negative watch on Ocwen's servicer ratings. The agency downgraded the company's ratings following reports that it had backdated potentially thousands of notes to borrowers regarding loan modifications and foreclosure notices.

In a note released late Monday, Fitch noted it has had "long-standing concerns with Ocwen's aggressive growth, heavy concentration of off-shore resources, and use of related companies" dating as far back as December 2011.

Ocwen's portfolio has seen massive growth in the last two years as the servicer pushed to acquire new business from banks burdened by heavy regulation. That growth has attracted scrutiny in the last year from regulators and experts concerned about its ability to manage its quickly expanding portfolio of troubled loans.

For the servicing industry, the company’s difficulties in the last year serve as a warning against too-rapid expansion. Ed Delgado, president and CEO of the Dallas-based trade group the Five Star Institute, said servicers in the future are more likely to take pause when considering new acquisitions.

"This settlement ensures that there will be a heightened sense of responsibility for servicing loans or portfolios being acquired," Delgado said. "Organizations have to be better equipped to provide the highest measure of service, no matter the circumstance or the condition of the book of business."

Editor’s note: The Five Star Institute is the parent company of MReport and theMReport.com.

About Author: Tory Barringer

Tory Barringer began his journalism career in early 2011, working as a writer for the University of Texas at Arlington's student newspaper before joining the DS News team in 2012. In addition to contributing to DSNews.com, he is also the online editor for DS News' sister publication, MReport, which focuses on mortgage banking news.
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