HUD Reaches Landmark $41 Million Settlement With ABN AMRO
|January 5, 2006|
Settlement represents largest enforcement action in FHA’s history
|ABN AMRO Settlement Agreement|
WASHINGTON - The Department of Housing and Urban Development, together with the Department's Office of Inspector General, the Justice Department and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, today announced a more than $41 million settlement against mortgage giant ABN AMRO Mortgage Group for falsifying documents in tens of thousands of loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). This landmark agreement represents that largest monetary settlement of an enforcement action in FHA's history.
In 2003, HUD discovered underwriting deficiencies and improper conduct by an ABN employee. After the matter was brought to the company's attention, ABN launched an internal investigation and discovered that, in direct violation of FHA rules, a number of its employees falsely certified that two ABN underwriters had reviewed more than 28,000 loans prior to FHA endorsement when, in fact, they had not.
As a result, ABN has agreed to pay the U.S. Government $16.85 million and will not submit hundreds of defaulted loans to HUD, saving the FHA insurance fund an estimated $24.35 million in losses. The total value of the settlement agreement announced today is estimated to be more than $41 million.
"This settlement is the result of a lot of tireless dedication, hard work and close coordination on behalf of HUD, the Department's Inspector General and our other federal partners," said Keith E. Gottfried, HUD's General Counsel. "This action demonstrates our steadfast and enduring commitment to making sure HUD's programs are administered in accordance with the letter and intent of the law and are free from fraud and abuse."
Brian Montgomery, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Housing-Federal Housing Commissioner said, "As much as we intend to aggressively expand the FHA program to help even more families realize their American Dream and become homeowners, we will not do so at the expense of the financial soundness, integrity or reputation of the Federal Housing Administration. This settlement is evidence that we will take immediate action if our participating lenders, however large or small, fail to follow our underwriting requirements."
HUD's Inspector General Kenneth Donahue, Sr. added, " This team effort reimburses FHA and the government for, and protects it from, tens of millions of dollars in mortgage insurance losses that were caused by lax procedures during the heyday of the housing boom. Equally important, it sends the unmistakable message to the mortgage industry as a whole that the Government will not tolerate such blatant violations of FHA's underwriting requirements and other improper conduct by lenders that threaten the integrity of the FHA program and we will hold lenders responsible for such activities. The FHA insurance fund and the American taxpayer must always be protected."
Under the FHA mortgage insurance program, ABN has "direct endorsement authority" to approve FHA-insured loans, allowing the company to underwrite loans and submit them to FHA for insurance endorsement. In general, FHA requires that before a lender may submit a loan for endorsement, its underwriters must perform due diligence and make certain certifications, including that the loan meets FHA's underwriting requirements.
HUD's Office of General Counsel and HUD's Office of Inspector General determined that there were potential violations of the False Claims Act and the Program Fraud Civil Remedies Act involving more than 28,000 loans submitted to HUD with false certifications. Loans were submitted with certifications purporting to be signed by one of two underwriters when neither had, in fact, actually signed the certifications nor personally reviewed the loans to determine whether they qualified for FHA insurance.
In addition to the $16.85 million in cash payments to the Government, ABN AMRO agreed that it will not submit insurance claims on 783 defaulted loans, saving the FHA insurance fund an estimated $24.35 million in potential losses.