Magazine article American Banker

Lawmaker Gets on the Phone to Get on Servicers

Magazine article American Banker

Lawmaker Gets on the Phone to Get on Servicers

Article excerpt

Byline: Stacy Kaper

WASHINGTON - Call it the ultimate in mystery shopping.

Rep. Maxine Waters, a nine-term Democrat from California, one of the states hit hardest by the mortgage crisis, is personally calling servicers to help her constituents get a lower rate, a longer maturity, or some other modification that will help them meet their payments and avoid foreclosure.

The chairwoman of the House Financial Services' housing subcommittee said she is unconcerned that she may be leaning on companies she oversees, potentially creating a conflict of interest and violating House ethics rules.

"The Ethics Committee said we are not to get involved - it's a third party and contracts between citizens," Rep. Waters said in an interview this week. "I don't care. Throw the book at me. Put me in jail. Do whatever you have to do. I am defying them."

So far Rep. Waters and her staff, including an employeewho works full time calling servicers to rework loans for constituents, have succeeded in helping seven borrowers avoid foreclosure, and another 30 cases are in the works.

She concedes servicers respond differently to her because she is a member of Congress. "One of the reasons why I think we are able to kind of be successful at what we are doing is it's kind of the threat of the member of Congress calling you and working on this," she said.

On Oct. 25, after sitting on hold for an hour with American Servicing Co., a Wells Fargo & Co. unit, Rep. Waters decided to take the problem directly to John Stumpf, Wells' chief executive. In response, Rep. Waters' office said Mr. Stumpf has pledged to conduct a top-to-bottom assessment of the unit's operation. A Wells spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Rep. Waters began handling constituent complaints directly in October, after a housing conference she hosted this summer and subsequent meetings with counselors convinced her not enough was getting done. …

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