AUGUSTA, Maine - Ocwen Financial Corporation will refund or credit 24 Maine residents more than $50,000 in attorney’s fees they were assessed when their homes were foreclosed upon, and the company will pay $24,000 in civil penalties and $10,000 in investigative costs to the state of Maine, as part of a Consent Agreement signed last week.
Ocwen is a national provider of loan servicing for lenders. It is headquartered in Florida and has offices in several states. In its Consent Agreement with Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection and Attorney General, Ocwen admitted that after July 2014 it pursued foreclosures against Maine homeowners based on paperwork which the state found to be legally defective.
Specifically, Ocwen used “powers of attorney” granted by corporate originators of the mortgages, but those corporate originators of the mortgages had been legally dissolved – had ceased to exist – no later than March 2012. The State alleges that the powers of attorney terminated when the granting corporations dissolved.
Under the Consent Agreement, the state found that Ocwen’s use of the powers of attorneys from legally nonexistent entities violated a statute prohibiting “false, deceptive or misleading representation or means in the collection of any debt.”
Ocwen’s illegal filings continued into January of 2019, even after Ocwen’s lawyers had assured state regulators in November 2018 that the practice would stop. The company termed the additional filings as “inadvertent.”
“Maine’s Supreme Court has made clear that lenders must establish that they have the legal right to pursue foreclosures,” says Will Lund, Superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection. “Those requirements were not followed in these cases.”
Maine Attorney General Aaron M. Frey, whose office assisted state mortgage regulators in negotiating and resolving the matter, states, “The Consent Agreement puts Ocwen – and other national mortgage lenders and servicers – on notice that they must follow the legal standards here in Maine if they pursue actions on defaulted mortgages.”
The Consent Agreement may have ramifications beyond Ocwen, noted Superintendent Lund, since other lenders may be filing foreclosures based on similar powers of attorney issued by the same nonexistent corporate loan originators used by Ocwen.