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RESPA reformer leaves HUD

May 19, 2005

Attorney moves to Federal Housing Finance Board

Inman News

John Kennedy, an attorney who played an active role in reform of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act when employed at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, has left that agency to join the Federal Housing Finance Board.

Kennedy, an attorney, will assume his duties at the Federal Housing Finance Board next week, according to Doug Duvall, a spokesman for the board.

Reform of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, or RESPA, has been an issue for years. Alphonso Jackson, U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary, in late April promised members of a national mortgage banking association to seek their input on reform of RESPA.

HUD's previous attempts to make changes to RESPA to simplify the home-buying process for consumers came to a halt in March 2004 when Jackson withdrew the agency's proposal from the White House Office of Management and Budget. At that time, Jackson said HUD would reexamine the rule, revise it if necessary and re-propose it.

This time, HUD will seek input from members of Congress before releasing proposals for public comment.

"Once we get (Congress') input, we will go back to the industry, and let the industry group make their comments…I can assure you that once that is done, we will not hold (the rule) in abatement as we did last time," Jackson told the House Financial Services Committee at a hearing earlier this month.

HUD is not sitting idle while reforms are being pursued. The Department is ramping up RESPA enforcement, tripling its enforcement staff and doubling its enforcement budget, the agency reported in late March.

HUD is currently pursuing 60 investigations into alleged violations of RESPA's Section 8, the principal anti-kickback section of the act, a HUD spokesman has said.

Lenders, builders, title companies and other settlement service providers are under investigation for possible violations of Section 8, the principal anti-kickback section of RESPA, Sullivan confirmed.

Additionally, HUD announced in March two related settlements involving allegations that several Tulsa, Okla.-area home builders, real estate companies and title companies were attempting to skirt RESPA's anti-kickback provisions.

Copyright 2005 Inman News

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