President Signs Mortgage Bills

20 May

Carrie Bay | 05.20.09

President Barack Obama signed two housing bills into law on Wednesday afternoon – one that provides additional foreclosure relief and a second that targets mortgage fraud and other criminal activity related to federal assistance programs. The Helping Families Save Their Home Act will make vital changes to the Hope for Homeowners (H4H) program to encourage servicers to employ the plan as a means to help underwater homeowners under the administration’s Making Home Affordable program.

The bill also includes a servicer safe haven to provide lenders with liability protections from investors for the mortgage modifications they make. It provides for an additional $130 million to fund foreclosure prevention efforts, such as counseling and education, and establishes foreclosure protections for renters. In addition, the new law more than triples the FDIC’s line of credit with the Treasury to $100 billion – a measure intended to rebuild the agency’s depleted insurance fund while keeping lenders’ depository insurance fees at a minimum.

The act also permanently raises the insurance cap on individual bank accounts from $100,000 to $250,000.

The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA) grants new resources to help fight financial fraud and address the rapid rise in mortgage and foreclosure rescue scams. The legislation provides nearly $500 million for the investigation and prosecution of such criminal activity – a move that John A. Courson, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) called “imperative in protecting vulnerable consumers as well as protecting the integrity of our housing finance system.” Of the funds provided under FERA, the majority will be allocated to the hiring of fraud prosecutors and investigators at the Justice Department and to increasing the number of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents devoted to mortgage fraud.

The money will also be used to expand the staff of the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Justice Department’s criminal, civil, and tax divisions. In addition, the legislation, for the first time, expands federal fraud statutes to also apply to independent mortgage companies and mortgage brokers that are not regulated or insured by the government.

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