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Posts Tagged ‘Cuomo’

[eAppraiseIT Lawsuit] Cuomo Can Proceed Action Over “Inflated”, “Bogus” Appraisals

June 10, 2010 | 10:04 am | |

Ahhh, 2007 seems like only yesterday when I wrote about NY AG Cuomo’s lawsuit against First American‘s appraisal unit, eAppraisIT

Please note: eAppraisIT’s tagline is “redefining value.”

“The attorney general claims that defendants engaged in fraudulent, deceptive and illegal business practices by allegedly permitting eAppraiseIT residential real estate appraisers to be influenced by nonparty Washington Mutual,” presiding justice Luis Gonzalez wrote in today’s unanimous decision. “We conclude that neither federal statutes, nor the regulations and guidelines implemented by the OTS, preclude the Attorney General of the State of New York from pursuing litigation.”

The institutions in my 2007 post have seen change:

  • WAMU…gone!
  • OTS…soon to be gone!
  • First American…renamed CoreLogic.
  • eAppraisIT…business as usual.

New York can proceed with a lawsuit accusing title insurer First American Corp of colluding with Washington Mutual Inc. to fraudulently inflate home values, a state appeals court unanimously ruled on Tuesday.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo had accused First American and its eAppraiseIT unit in a November 2007 lawsuit of having “caved” to pressure from Washington Mutual to use a list of pre-approved appraisers who provided inflated appraisals, in an effort to win more business.

I have to confess I’m not too neutral here on this issue – a few years ago, I decided not to renew one of our FirstAmerican subscription resources (floorplans) since we had access to more cost effective resources. Despite the cancellation at the end of the contract period, FirstAmerican continued to bill us every month for a year despite dozens of calls by me, then proceeded to threaten us with collection and then ultimately sent us to collection. This was because I opted not to renew my subscription. They couldn’t get us out of their billing system. Scary. On top of that, they never sent the product (they always send the product and then bill you).

I finally resorted to screaming and yelling until I finally got it resolved. I’ve never experienced anything like that before.

Double Whammy
So its hard to believe an appraisal management company owned by FirstAmerican was above reproach but the courts will decide, not a disaffected (you should see the emails between Wamu and FirstAmerican presented in the Cuomo lawsuit. The link to the original lawsuit document is broken now but trust me, the emails were a doozy – here’s the Wamu 10k filing).

A False Premise and a Certain Irony
Here’s irony I can’t shake. Cuomo’s Home Valuation Code of Conduct agreement between Fannie Mae and his office change the landscape of bank appraisal work forever. What started out as good intentions to stop the conflict of interest between mortgage brokers and appraisers, ended up enabling the appraisal management company (AMC) institution which is what eAppraisIT is. The lawsuit shows that AMC are MORE exposed to bank pressure than individual appraisers are.


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[Cuomo Recipe] Ratings Agencies Take Hand Out Of Cookie Jar

June 4, 2008 | 12:46 am | |

Like he did for the relationship between mortgage brokers and appraisers, the three major bond-rating firms reached an agreement with Cuomo, the New York Attorney General that creates more independence for ratings agencies. Cuomo has been one of the only public official currently in office that hasn’t simply tried to slap more regulations on all parties, pointing the finger and saying don’t do bad things.

Give me a break.

Like him or not, Cuomo has done is to fix systemic flaws within the financial system by following the mortgage.

Rating agencies were one of the weakest links in the integrity of the lending system.

Today’s WSJ article Bond-Rating Fee Overhaul Looms in Settlement, discusses the potential agreement.

many critics claim has been a chronic problem with bond ratings: They are paid for by the entities being rated. That financial dependence has been blamed for the industry’s failure to predict that risky subprime mortgages would crumble, resulting in losses and shaken confidence.

If the firm gave too low a rating, it wouldn’t get hired by the investment bank who would simply go to the next agency to get the rating they needed:

Under the Cuomo settlement, which would cover the hardest-hit portions of the mortgage market, the firms would get paid for their review, even if they didn’t end up getting hired to rate the deal. This would mean the firms would get paid even if they were tough. The plan, which requires final agreement by Mr. Cuomo’s office and the rating firms, wouldn’t dictate the exact fees rating firms could charge. But the firms would be required to charge more than a nominal fee for their preliminary work.

It still doesn’t fully separate the rating agencies for preferential treatment from bond issuers but it sure is a good start.

Cuomo seems to be less abrasive that Spitzer, his predecessor was. At the very least, the bond agencies were guilty of gross negligence for using the wrong data to understand the potential default rates for the securitization of subprime, alt-a and for that matter prime loans. Last summer they suddenly downgraded highly rated mortgage bonds claiming the models they had didn’t work.

Cuomo seems to be more interested in fixing investor confidence than playing hard ball with the agencies. It’s refreshing to think there is a light at the end of the securitization tunnel.

Speaking of stirring things up, take a look at these videos of the recent Parkersburg Iowa tornados: [bank security camera] [house] (hat tip to Market Power)

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