1st October 2012

FDIC Appraiser Subpoena update

posted in Appraiser News |

FDIC Subpoena update

The Mortgage Recovery Law Group
“Who are they and what do they do?”

At FREA, we provide risk management services for thousands of appraisers and we’ve been doing so for roughly 20 years. In that time, we have seen a lot of strange and unusual happenings, but this one may take the cake. From what we have been able to learn so far, the Mortgage Recovery Law Group (“MRLG”) is a group of gunslinger lawyers from Glendale, CA hired by the FDIC to intimidate, browbeat, annoy, and generally harass appraisers with E&O insurance until they get paid something to go away. Officially, the MRLG is “helping” the FDIC recover money from people who caused the subprime mortgage meltdown, the failure of numerous banks, and the resulting drop in real estate values all over the U.S…. and we all know it was the appraisers who caused this.

In truth, this is yet another example of the government (aka Big Brother) hammering the little guy for something very minor while giving the real culprits (Wall Street, bank executives, etc) a free pass. The MRLG is the private firm purportedly hired by the FDIC to help pursue evil wrongdoers in the name of truth, justice, and the American way. However, what is actually happening is shocking. If the FDIC finds someone who did something terribly wrong after a bank is taken over, you would expect them to attack the wrongdoers. Unfortunately, your assumption would be incorrect most of the time. You see, no matter how bad the acts of the wrongdoer, the MRLG won’t sue them to recover anything unless they have insurance.

On the other hand, if you simply did an appraisal for XYZ Mortgage, then XYZ sold the loan to a bank that failed, then the FDIC took over the bank’s assets, then the FDIC discovered the homeowners stopped paying the mortgage, and then the house sold at foreclosure for less than the loan amount. You are almost certainly going to get sued if you have E&O insurance. How, you ask? Well, the FDIC will turn this loss over to the MRLG, and the MRLG will have the FDIC issue and sign what is known as a subpoena duces tecum which orders you to send the MRLG everything in your appraisal file plus a copy of your E&O policy. It’s a pretty scary document which recites several ominous provisions of the U.S. Code and is generally designed to frighten you into cooperating, It may also be one of the biggest abuses of government power since the McCarthy hearings.

Of course, your own cooperation actually ends up helping the MRLG build a case against you, a case which is totally dependent on whether you have E&O insurance. If you do, you get sued and if you don’t, you walk away. If you get sued, the MRLG asks for the sun, the moon, the stars, and lots of money, but all they really want is for your E&O insurer to calculate that it’s cheaper to settle than to try the case. In other words, all the MRLG is looking for is what we in the legal profession call a nuisance settlement. Simply put, if you are annoying enough, someone will pay you to go away.

Is this all legal? Maybe it is, but maybe it is not. Is this ethical? Maybe it is, but maybe it is not. Is this going to help the real estate market recover? Absolutely not!

By targeting the appraisers instead of the bank executives or Wall Street gurus or Congressional morons who really caused the collapse, the FDIC is extending the downturn unnecessarily. The E&O carriers who pay these nuisance settlements have to raise their rates to cover the losses, the appraisers who are getting sued over an appraisal they did 5 years ago are afraid the values in the appraisals they are doing today will get them sued again in another 5 years, so they are being ultra-conservative, and the FDIC ends up paying a big chunk of the money collected to the lawyers at the MRLG. In the end, nobody wins except the real bad guys who took their money and ran far, far away.

Stay tuned for more on this saga and watch:

1. FREA helps appraisers in the FREA program fight the FDIC subpoenas
2. FREA files a Freedom of Information Act request with the FDIC to find out, among other things, how much the MRLG is making off this scam
3. FREA meets with members of Congress to tell them about this ridiculous scenario

If your Risk Manager and/or E&O Provider isn’t working to protect you this way, maybe you need to think about a switch.

At FREA, we’ve got your back!

Best regards,
The FREA Team

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