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Berkshire Unit Settles With NC

Vanderbilt Mortgage to refund $2.8 million

March 10, 2010

By staff

A growing manufactured home lender settled charges by North Carolina that it violated several laws in the state. The unit is owned by billionaire Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway -- which is on the cusp of becoming one of the biggest players in mortgage lending.

The settlement was announced yesterday by the North Carolina Office of Commissioner of Banks.

The lender, Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance Inc., allegedly violated numerous North Carolina laws.

The regulator explained in the statement that while manufactured home lenders have traditionally been subject to state laws for vehicle titles and lending, the growing practice of attaching the home to real property has subjected lenders on those properties to North Carolina's mortgage laws.

"Moreover, due to recent changes in mortgage licensing laws, individuals who solicit or accept applications to finance manufactured homes must be licensed and supervised by NCCOB, regardless of whether or not these home loans are secured by land," the statement said.

Vanderbilt agreed to refund $2.8 million to impacted borrowers as part of the agreement. In a addition, it will pay a $750,000 civil money penalty to the state and contribute $250,000 to the State Home Foreclosure Prevention Project.

North Carolina said the settlement was the largest ever in the state with a manufactured home lender. Such dwellings account for 15 percent of the state's housing.

Also as part of the settlement, Vanderbilt agreed to improve its business practices and establish internal controls that ensure it complies with state and federal laws.

Vanderbilt faced a class action lawsuit in 2006 filed on behalf of two South Carolina women who claimed the company showered them, friends and relatives with harassing collection calls on the telephone.

Vanderbilt was included in the 2006 acquisition of Clayton Homes Inc. by Berkshire Hathaway. Since then, Vanderbilt and sister company 21st Mortgage Corp. acquired a portfolio of around $264 million in manufactured housing loan assets from Popular Financial Holdings in September 2008. Two months earlier, Vanderbilt acquired a manufactured housing portfolio of approximately $470 million from CIT.

A Berkshire affiliate acquired Capmark Financial Group Inc.'s North American servicing and mortgage banking businesses in December 2009. Capmark was ranked by the Mortgage Bankers Association as the third biggest U.S. commercial mortgage servicer as of Dec. 31, 2009.

Rumors have been circulating that Buffett might be interested in acquiring Residential Capital LLC from GMAC Inc. A spokeswoman for GMAC previously told that the ResCap unit is not a consumer-facing brand -- though it is a GMAC subsidiary out of which operate Ditech's retail lending business, GMAC Mortgage's direct origination unit and GMAC Mortgage's servicing operation.

Originations at GMAC were $64.7 billion last year, making it the fifth biggest residential lender in the country. The company's mortgage servicing portfolio ended 2009 at $349.8 billion, roughly making it the fifth biggest residential servicer.

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