The theme ringing throughout the Five Star Institute's 7th Annual Legal League 100 Spring Servicer Summit Thursday in Dallas, Texas, was this: The default servicing industry is rapidly changing.
Several of the keynote speakers and roundtable discussions focused on the changes that have taken place in the mortgage servicing industry since the crisis, and in many cases, in the last year or two.
Five Star Institute President and CEO Ed Delgado opened the event by telling the audience of default servicing attorneys, servicing providers, officials from government agencies, and mortgage servicers that the Legal League 100, which was created in April 2007 in collaboration with Five Star to provide the mortgage banking and default servicing industries with a reliable, results-driven resource, has experienced a shift in strategy. Delgado announced that the Legal League's focus is now on advocacy and in helping default servicing law firms to be sustainable in today's landscape, whereas in the past it has been focused on marketing.
"Advocacy is supposed to influence the arc of an industry and become a powerful voice of representation for decisions," Delgado said. "That is the primary objective of what Legal League is currently about."
The shift in strategy has resulted in a 20 percent increase in Legal League membership in the last year and representation in as many as 85 percent of states for the first time in the Legal League's nine-year history, Delgado said.
With the shift in strategy came a change in leadership. Neil Sherman, managing attorney at Detroit-based Schneiderman & Sherman, P.C., is the Legal League's newly elected chairperson. He replaces outgoing chairperson Glen Rubin, managing partner at Rubin Lublin, LLC.
Other leadership changes include Michelle Garcia Gilbert, managing partner of Gilbert Garcia Group, P.A., taking on the role of vice chairperson, and Roy Diaz, Shareholder, SHD Legal Group, P.A., and David G. Marowske, Senior Litigation Attorney, Potestivo & Associates, P.C., newly elected to Advisory Council general positions. Stephen M. Hladik , Partner, Hladik, Onorato & Federman, LLP, was elected (uncontested) as the Government Affairs Subcommittee Chairperson.
Jeffrey B. Fisher, EVP, BP Fisher Law Group; Erin M. Laurito , Managing Member, Laurito & Laurito, LLC; and Richard Nielson, Managing Partner of Nielson & Sherry, PSC, were all re-elected to Advisory Council general positions. The newly-elected and re-elected members will join current Advisory Council members Adam Codilis, Codilis and Associates, P.C., and J. Anthony Van Ness, Van Ness Law Firm, PLC.
Breakfast keynote speakers at the Summit were the Honorable Joseph J. Murin, chairman of JJAM Financial Services, co-chairman of Chrysalis Financial Holdings, and former president of Ginnie Mae, and Tod Edel, deputy general counsel and managing director, Fannie Mae.
"Much harm is being done right now in the form of unintended consequences all in the name of protecting the consumer."
Murin told the audience that those in the mortgage industry are "fighting a negative perception that is only growing" because of their perceived role in precipitating the financial crisis. The result of this perception is a wave of new regulations to govern the mortgage industry; but this has not necessarily been a good thing. The new regulations are "efforts being made to fix the problem we are perceived to have. But as we know, the road to hell is usually paved with good intentions," Murin said.
"Much harm is being done right now in the form of unintended consequences all in the name of protecting the consumer," Murin said. He cited as examples fewer mortgage options, slower closing, tighter credit, and higher costs to originate a mortgage.
Edel spoke about the FHFA's efforts to fight the growing number of so-called "super-priority lien" cases in which HOAs that foreclose on homes delinquent on HOA dues are attempting to extinguish mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Several states have made super-priority liens legal, notably in Nevada in 2014. Edel said a class action suit was initiated against an HOA in Massachusetts because there were so many cases it was impossible to litigate on a property-by-property basis.
The afternoon keynotes included two representatives from the government: Christopher Dove, Director of Operations, Homeowners Preservation Office. U.S. Department of Treasury; and Diane Thompson, Managing Counsel, Office of Regulations, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Dove spoke about the government's Home Affordable Mortgage Program (HAMP), which was created in response to the crisis to help struggling borrowers avoid foreclosure. The program, which has helped 1.8 million borrowers, will expire at the end of the year. Thompson spoke about the CFPB's history and said that from the Bureau's inception through the present, regulating mortgage servicing to prevent predatory practices has been a top priority.
The concluding lunch keynote speaker was Edward Pinto, co-director, International Center on Housing Risk, American Enterprise Institute. Pinto noted that there has been a huge shift in the market from banks to nonbanks, with nonbanks how taking 70 percent of the market. Just four years ago, banks had a 70 percnet market share. The shift from banks to nonbanks in the mortgage space has made mortgage loans considerably more risky, particularly among first-time buyers, Pinto said.
The subjects of the roundtables were centered around adapting to changes in the industry. Subjects included "Letter of the Law: Using New Case Law and Legislation to Find Your Footing," "Changing Tides: The Evolution of Foreclosure and Loss Mitigation Processes," "Limiting Liability: The Rising Tide of Litigation in Mortgage Servicing," "Assessing the Assessment: Charting the Path to a Successful Audit," "Shifting Perspectives: Alternative Routes and Strategies in Bankruptcy," "Treading Water: Assessing Law Firm Sustainability," "Staying the Course: How Not to Run Afoul of the Most Recent Rule Changes," and "Partners in the Journey: Creating Strong Client-Attorney Relationships."
Editor's note: The Five Star Institute is the parent company of MReport and TheMReport.com.