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Pulte Mortgage’s Debra W. Still Delivers Remarks at MBA’s National Mortgage Servicing Conference

Orlando, FL – February 23, 2012 – (RealEstateRama) — “Good morning everyone and welcome. As President and CEO of Pulte Mortgage, Chairman-Elect of the Mortgage Bankers Association and Chair of the MBA’s Council on the Future of Residential Servicing for the 21st Century, it is a pleasure to be here with all of you and to launch MBA’s National Mortgage Servicing Conference & Expo.

I suspect most of us, somewhere in our past, took a psychology course or attended a business seminar and learned about the power of positive thinking.

Experts in this field will tell you that it is critical to be confident and to never doubt yourself.

That once you begin to doubt, the possible becomes the impossible.

They teach that one’s sense of certainty dictates the quality of a person’s life.

And that uncertainty breeds fear.

It is not too difficult these days to apply these concepts to real estate finance and housing in America.

Uncertainty in our industry, caused by an unprecedented number of policy initiatives, government interventions, new rule upon new rule and severe enforcement actions – much like the experts would predict – have indeed created a level of fear.

Many of us here today can identify with the fear of making a mistake, or the fear of being innovative or the fear to make a forward-looking decision, or ultimately, even the fear to lend.

And, more importantly, how many prospective homeowners are reluctant to act upon their dream of homeownership, instead sitting on the sidelines afraid to buy a home?

We are at a point in time in our industry when re-establishing certainty is critical.

Over the past five years, the collapse of the mortgage finance system has evolved into a much broader economic impact – into what has been called the “Great Recession”.

Housing’s role is so important that the President devoted a significant segment of his recent State of the Union Address to that topic.

However, the introduction of a new refinance program, a new enforcement task force and Financial Crisis Responsibility Fees creates yet more uncertainty for the mortgage lending community.

It is hard to imagine that any sector has felt more impact than mortgage servicing.

Real and sustained property value declines, high unemployment and a tidal wave of borrower defaults have focused extraordinary attention on mortgage servicers.

This exposure has been intense and unrelenting.

“Robo-signing” put consumer and regulator concerns on the front page of newspapers across the country.

This prompted an OCC action against the fourteen largest servicers with a focus on non-performing loans.

And it was well publicized, these same servicers have been under investigation by state AG’s and the federal government.

In the face of all of this, you’ve accomplished a lot, considering the traditional servicing model was never designed to handle this volume of delinquent homeowners.

Residential mortgage servicers have taken on daunting challenges in trying to help borrowers avoid foreclosure.

You’ve scrambled to hire and train enough personnel,
re-engineer work flows and business processes and develop the infrastructure and the software to support new loss mitigation programs such as HAMP, enhanced forbearance programs, the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives as well as refinance programs such as HARP.

Critics claim that loan modification programs are helping too few borrowers and modifications are taking too long to process.

But the statistics paint a different picture.

According to HOPE Now, more than five million homeowners have received permanent modifications since mid-2007;
and over the past four years, over 13 million homeowners have received your help through modifications and work-out plans including short sales and other types of customized re-payment strategies.

Our response has not always been perfect, and we’ve made some mistakes along the way.

But the nation’s servicers can be proud of what has been accomplished under extremely difficult circumstances.

For the long term however, essential changes must be made to the servicing business model.

Well-defined rules are critical and will play a steadying role in the housing market and our economy.

But rules without alignment, coordination, consistency, and clarity will fail in the most fundamental way and exacerbate the uncertainty and fear that permeate the housing landscape today.

Significantly, officials from the Federal Reserve System, including Chairman Bernanke, pointed out recently that a coordinated and well-defined national housing policy is critical to shoring up our fragile economy and struggling housing market.

In other words, we need certainty; and the Mortgage Bankers Association needs your expertise, your involvement and your passion to help us influence regulators and policy makers on the issues that are the focus of confusing and often contradictory servicing regulations.

And – we must be bold and be willing to “raise-the-bar” on the existing servicing model so that we can, once and for all, remedy the industry’s trust deficit with consumers and policy makers.

It is in this context that the Mortgage Bankers Association is taking a leadership role and making sure its members are vitally involved in crafting servicing reform.

This commitment was the catalyst for the creation of MBA’s Council on The Future of Residential Mortgage Servicing for the 21st Century.

Our advantage is we are a trade association with a
100-year history of experience and institutional knowledge in mortgage lending.

We are the only trade association representing all sectors of the Real Estate Finance industry.

The Servicing 21 Council, chartered 15 months ago, consists of 25 industry professionals and blends
the voices of
depository servicers,
small bank servicers, independent mortgage bankers,
insurance companies,
servicing brokers,
and related software and outsourcing vendors.

Our mission is to gather input from all stakeholders, provide education, and recommend essential changes to the servicing business model –
A model that will work and best align the interests of homeowners, servicers and investors.

We formed three working groups: the Economics Group, to focus on the alternative servicing fee proposals;
the Servicing Standards Group, charged with crafting servicing best practices;
and the Legal Issues Group, to address the concept of nationwide uniform laws.

Through the efforts of the Servicing 21 Council, here is how MBA, your Association, is working for you:

We launched our work with a Washington, D.C., Summit in January of last year where we collected over a hundred individual concerns.

Using this feedback, MBA issued an educational white paper, which served both as an environmental scan and an educational tool to furnish background information on mortgage loan servicing.

The legal issues group has teamed with the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws to help develop a single set of uniform foreclosure laws to be adopted by the states.

The economics working group took the lead in analyzing FHFA’s servicing fee proposal taking the position that ‘now is not the time.’

It is our strong belief that any changes to the servicing fee structure should be delayed until the potential realization of a national servicing standard is achieved.

MBA also recommended that FHFA study and consider the merits of the MBA Reserve Account Proposal.

If media reports from Washington are accurate, FHFA has decided to put its initiative on the back burner, demonstrating the strong influence of the Mortgage Bankers Association as your voice in the Nations’ Capital.

The Servicing Standards Group embraced the difficult task of crafting servicing best practices with the objective that borrowers be treated fairly without imposing unnecessary, onerous and costly requirements on servicers.

A single set of rules, national in scope will eliminate confusion for the industry,
as well as for consumers -confusion that is inhibiting
our ability to help
at-risk borrowers.

Much has been written about the recent mortgage servicing settlement.

The final agreement should help stabilize and provide certainty and confidence to the mortgage markets.

Included in the settlement is a set of servicing standards.

These standards, along with what our council has produced, have the potential of becoming the framework for national, uniform, servicing standards.

One set of rules, that provide borrowers with equal protections and servicers with clear direction, will lead to the confidence and clarity the industry sorely needs.

On February first,
the White House released a set of principles for how we should be interacting with, and treating, our customers – a “Homeowner Bill of Rights”.

MBA is working with the Administration, the CFPB and all stakeholders to see how these principles can be shaped into workable national servicing standards aligned with the prototype we are developing.

To complement all of these efforts, MBA’s President and CEO, Dave Stevens
testified before Congress twice last year on
“The Need for National Mortgage Servicing Standards.”

And the work continues.

The Council members have invested many long hours, well beyond those of their regular jobs, and will continue to do so for months to come.

MBA would not be nearly as prepared and influential in its efforts to lead the way forward, had it not been for the dedicated individuals who so generously give their time and expertise to the cause.

I deeply appreciate the hard work and contributions of every member of the Council.

As we work together to stabilize real estate finance, even this far down the road, uncertainty still lurks on many issues.

Re-establishing certainty, however, comes with a price, which at this point, we as mortgage lenders must be willing to pay.

We must accept the fact that changes in our industry are not only inevitable but necessary.

As leaders, we cannot be viewed as an obstacle to the process – or we will be left behind.

By embracing the true spirit of new regulations, speaking with one strong voice, and boldly stepping up, we will regain our credibility with policy makers and reclaim our “seat at the table”.

There, we can play an active role in shaping the future of our industry.

We must be involved to achieve a balanced outcome and prevent the regulatory pendulum from swinging too far.

Above all, our motivation must always be – to do what is in the best interest of homeowners.

I am fortunate to lead a company whose parent is a homebuilder.

For nearly three decades,
it has allowed me to work very close to the point-of-sale and to witness that special moment when an individual or a family makes the decision that homeownership is right for them.

At Pulte, we commit ourselves to the joy of the home buying process.

We’ve learned from our customers that we don’t
sell houses, we sell homes.

We don’t build sub-divisions; we build neighborhoods and communities.

Even in today’s environment, I am humbled by the heartfelt letters of appreciation from our customers about the special meaning of homeownership to them.

The vast majority of Americans still believe in the dream of homeownership.

A recent study by the Research Institute for Housing America, found that nearly 80 percent of American households think that now is a good time to buy a home.

That is an overwhelming endorsement of what we do, of what we make possible – and why our work matters.

Our industry is filled with dedicated people who have been on the front lines since this crisis began – and are still on the front lines – it is why you are all here today.

We continue to face our challenges head-on so the joy of homeownership can be experienced by all qualified borrowers.

MBA is committed to leading the effort for changes to the residential loan servicing paradigm.

It is our intent to demonstrate that the industry is capable of designing and implementing responsible solutions.

Our bold efforts will ensure the prospect of a more certain tomorrow for our industry and for homebuyers – and someday, in the not too distant future, a “new normal” for servicing.

Thank you.”


The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) is the national association representing the real estate finance industry, an industry that employs more than 280,000 people in virtually every community in the country. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the association works to ensure the continued strength of the nation’s residential and commercial real estate markets; to expand homeownership and extend access to affordable housing to all Americans. MBA promotes fair and ethical lending practices and fosters professional excellence among real estate finance employees through a wide range of educational programs and a variety of publications. Its membership of over 2,200 companies includes all elements of real estate finance: mortgage companies, mortgage brokers, commercial banks, thrifts, Wall Street conduits, life insurance companies and others in the mortgage lending field. For additional information, visit MBA’s Web site: