Civil Fraud case alleged reckless mortgage lending and false claims
WASHINGTON, D.C. – May 14, 2012 – (RealEstateRama) — Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Stuart F. Delery, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, Helen Kanovsky, General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”), and David A. Montoya, Inspector General of HUD, announced today that the United States has settled a civil fraud lawsuit against DEUTSCHE BANK AG, DB STRUCTURED PRODUCTS, INC., DEUTSCHE BANK SECURITIES, INC. (collectively “DEUTSCHE BANK” or the “DEUTSCHE BANK defendants”) and MORTGAGEIT, INC. (“MORTGAGEIT”).
The Government’s lawsuit, filed May 3, 2011, sought damages and civil penalties under the False Claims Act for repeated false certifications to HUD in connection with the residential mortgage origination practices of MORTGAGEIT, a wholly-owned subsidiary of DEUTSCHE BANK AG since 2007. The suit alleges approximately a decade of misconduct in connection with MORTGAGEIT’s participation in the Federal Housing Administration’s (“FHA’s”) Direct Endorsement Lender Program (“DEL program”), which delegates authority to participating private lenders to endorse mortgages for FHA insurance. Among other things, the suit accused the defendants of having submitted false certifications to HUD, including false certifications that MORTGAGEIT was originating mortgages in compliance with HUD rules when in fact it was not. In the settlement announced today, MORTGAGEIT and DEUTSCHE BANK admitted, acknowledged, and accepted responsibility for certain conduct alleged in the Complaint, including that, contrary to the representations in MORTGAGEIT’s annual certifications, MORTGAGEIT did not conform to all applicable HUD-FHA regulations.
MORTGAGEIT also admitted that it submitted certifications to HUD stating that certain loans were eligible for FHA mortgage insurance when in fact they were not; that FHA insured certain loans endorsed by MORTGAGEIT that were not eligible for FHA mortgage insurance; and that HUD consequently incurred losses when some of those MORTGAGEIT loans defaulted. The defendants also agreed to pay $202.3 million to the United States to resolve the Government’s claims for damages and penalties under the False Claims Act. The settlement was approved today by United States District Judge Lewis Kaplan.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “MORTGAGEIT and DEUTSCHE BANK treated FHA insurance as free Government money to backstop lending practices that did not follow the rules. Participation in the Direct Endorsement Lender program comes with requirements that are not mere technicalities to be circumvented through subterfuge as these defendants did repeatedly over the course of a decade. Their failure to meet these requirements caused substantial losses to the Government – losses that could have and should have been avoided. In addition to their admissions of responsibility, Deutsche Bank and MortgageIT have agreed to pay damages in an amount that will significantly compensate HUD for the losses it incurred as a result of the defendants’ actions.”
Acting Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery stated: “This is an important settlement for the United States, both in terms of obtaining substantial reimbursement for the FHA insurance fund for wrongfully incurred claims, and in obtaining the defendants’ acceptance of their role in the losses they caused to the taxpayers.”
HUD General Counsel Helen Kanovsky stated: “This case demonstrates that HUD has the ability to identify fraud patterns and work with our partners at the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Offices to pursue appropriate remedies. HUD would like to commend the work of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York in achieving this settlement, which is a substantial recovery for the FHA mortgage insurance fund. We look forward to continuing our joint efforts with the Department of Justice and the SDNY to combat mortgage fraud. The mortgage industry should take notice that we will not sit silently by if we detect abuses in our programs.
HUD Inspector General David A. Montoya stated: “We expect every Direct Endorsement Lender to adhere to the highest level of integrity and accountability. When the combined efforts and attention of the Department of Justice, HUD, and HUD OIG are focused upon those who fail to exercise such integrity in connection with HUD programs, the end result will be both unpleasant and costly to the offending party.
The following allegations are based on the Complaint and Amended Complaint (the “Complaint”) filed in Manhattan federal court by the Government in this case:
Between 1999 and 2009, MORTGAGEIT was a participant in the DEL program, a federal program administered by the FHA. As a Direct Endorsement Lender, MORTGAGEIT had the authority to originate, underwrite, and endorse mortgages for FHA insurance. If a Direct Endorsement Lender approves a mortgage loan for FHA insurance and the loan later defaults, the holder of the loan may submit an insurance claim to HUD for the costs associated with the defaulted loan, which HUD must then pay. Under the DEL program, neither the FHA nor HUD reviews a loan before it is endorsed for FHA insurance. Direct Endorsement Lenders are therefore required to follow program rules designed to ensure that they are properly underwriting and endorsing mortgages for FHA insurance and maintaining a quality control program that can prevent and correct any deficiencies in their underwriting. These requirements include maintaining a quality control program, pursuant to which the lender must fully review all loans that go into default within the first six payments, known as “early payment defaults.” Early payment defaults may be signs of problems in the underwriting process, and by reviewing early payment defaults, Direct Endorsement Lenders are able to monitor those problems, correct them, and report them to HUD. MORTGAGEIT failed to comply with these basic requirements.
As the Complaint further alleges, MORTGAGEIT was also required to execute certifications for every mortgage loan that it endorsed for FHA insurance. Since 1999, MORTGAGEIT has endorsed more than 39,000 mortgages for FHA insurance, and FHA paid insurance claims on more than 3,200 mortgages, totaling more than $368 million, for mortgages endorsed for FHA insurance by MORTGAGEIT, including more than $58 million resulting from loans that defaulted after DEUTSCHE BANK AG acquired MORTGAGEIT in 2007. As alleged in the Complaint, a portion of those losses was caused by the false statements that the defendants made to HUD to obtain FHA insurance on individual loans. Although MORTGAGEIT had certified that each of these loans was eligible for FHA insurance, it repeatedly submitted certifications that were knowingly or recklessly false. MORTGAGEIT failed to perform basic due diligence and repeatedly endorsed mortgage loans that were not eligible for FHA insurance.
The Complaint also alleges that MORTGAGEIT separately certified to HUD, on an annual basis, that it was in compliance with the rules governing its eligibility in the DEL program, including that it conduct a full review of all early payment defaults, as early payment defaults are indicators of mortgage fraud. Contrary to its certifications to HUD, MORTGAGEIT failed to implement a compliant quality control program, and failed to review all early payment defaults as required. In addition, the Complaint alleges that, after DEUTSCHE BANK acquired MORTGAGEIT in January 2007, DEUTSCHE BANK managed the quality control functions of the Direct Endorsement Lender business, and had its employees sign and submit MORTGAGEIT’s Direct Endorsement Lender annual certifications to HUD. Furthermore, by the end of 2007, MORTGAGEIT was not reviewing any early payment defaults on closed FHA-insured loans. Between 1999 and 2009, the FHA paid more than $92 million in FHA insurance claims for loans that defaulted within the first six payments.
Pursuant to the settlement, MORTGAGEIT and the DEUTSCHE BANK defendants will pay the United States $202.3 million within 30 days of the settlement.
As part of the settlement, the defendants admitted, acknowledged, and accepted responsibility for certain misconduct. Specifically,
MORTGAGEIT admitted, acknowledged, and accepted responsibility for the following:
- MORTGAGEIT failed to conform fully to HUD-FHA rules requiring Direct Endorsement Lenders to maintain a compliant quality control program;
- MORTGAGEIT failed to conduct a full review of all early payment defaults on loans endorsed for FHA insurance;
- Contrary to the representations in MORTGAGEIT’s annual certifications, MORTGAGEIT did not conform to all applicable HUD-FHA regulations;
- MORTGAGEIT endorsed for FHA mortgage insurance certain loans that did not meet all underwriting requirements contained in HUD’s handbooks and mortgagee letters, and therefore were not eligible for FHA mortgage insurance under the DEL program; and
- MORTGAGEIT submitted to HUD-FHA certifications stating that certain loans were eligible for FHA mortgage insurance when in fact they were not; FHA insured certain loans endorsed by MORTGAGEIT that were not eligible for FHA mortgage insurance; and HUD consequently incurred losses when some of those MORTGAGEIT loans defaulted.
- The DEUTSCHE BANK defendants admitted, acknowledged, and accepted responsibility for the fact that after MORTGAGEIT became a wholly-owned, indirect subsidiary of DB Structured Products, Inc and Deutsche Bank AG in January 2007:
- The DEUTSCHE BANK defendants were in a position to know that the operations of MORTGAGEIT did not conform fully to all of HUD-FHA’s regulations, policies, and handbooks;
- One or more of the annual certifications was signed by an individual who was also an officer of certain of the DEUTSCHE BANK defendants; and
- Contrary to the representations in MORTGAGEIT’s annual certifications, MORTGAGEIT did not conform to all applicable HUD-FHA regulations.
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The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Frauds Unit. Mr. Bharara established the Civil Frauds Unit in March 2010 to bring renewed focus and additional resources to combating financial fraud, including mortgage fraud.
To date, the Office’s Civil Frauds Unit has brought four civil fraud lawsuits against major lenders under the False Claims Act alleging reckless residential mortgage lending. Three of the four cases have settled, and today’s settlement represents the third, and largest, settlement. On February 15, 2012, the Government settled its civil fraud lawsuit against CITIMORTGAGE, INC. for $158.3 million. On February 24, 2012, the Government settled its civil fraud suit against FLAGSTAR BANK, F.S.B. for $132.8 million. The Government’s lawsuit against ALLIED HOME MORTGAGE CORP. and two of its officers remains pending. With today’s settlement, the Government has achieved settlements totaling $493.4 million in the last three months. In each settlement, the defendants have admitted and accepted responsibility for certain conduct alleged in the Government’s Complaint. The Office’s Civil Frauds Unit is handling all three cases as part of its continuing investigation of reckless lending practices.
The Civil Frauds Unit works in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, on which Mr. Bharara serves as a Co-Chair of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Working Group. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.
Mr. Bharara thanked HUD and HUD-OIG for their extraordinary assistance in this case. He also expressed his appreciation for the support of the Commercial Litigation Branch of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division in Washington, D.C.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lara K. Eshkenazi, Pierre G. Armand, and Christopher B. Harwood are in charge of the case.
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U.S. Attorney’s Office Contact: Ellen Davis, Jerika Richardson, Jennifer Queliz
DOJ Contact: Charles Miller
HUD-OIG Contact: Kathleen Hatcher