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10-State SAFE Settlement

Mortgage Access to pay $3 million

June 1, 2011

By staff

A $3 million settlement with 10 states was reached in connection with one company's alleged attempts to skirt requirements under the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act. However, the lender was praised for its handling of the matter once alerted to the problem.

A news release Friday from New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Tom Considine indicated that the state had joined a 10-state, $3 million settlement with Mortgage Access Corp.

A joint examination last year by the 10 states found that the Morris Plains, N.J.-based lender "had attempted to approach this changed regulatory landscape through a multi-state loan production system making non-compliant use of unlicensed individuals," according to New Jersey's announcement.

But is was a Mortgage Access employee that brought the area of concern to the attention state regulators.

The multi-state settlement resolves SAFE compliance issues raised from the investigation.

In New Jersey, loan originators are subject to the New Jersey Residential Mortgage Lending Act.

The state praised Mortgage Access for accelerating corrective actions once alerted to the noncompliance by regulators. The settlement is intended to provide a long-term solution by implementing up to 18 months of auditing by an independent outside auditor and reporting to regulators.

"Today's voluntary agreement will build on the company's corrective efforts to establish and enforce the systems, training, oversight and controls necessary to avoid a similar occurrence in the future," Considine said in last week's news release.

For its part, Mortgage Access Corp. -- which does business as Weichert Financial Services -- said it had already undertaken compliance initiatives before the multi-state examination started in September 2010.

"In August 2010, after a thorough internal review of its activities, the company instituted improvements to its mortgage origination procedures and processes to better address the numerous regulatory changes that have occurred in recent years," a Mortgage Access written statement said. "The company cooperated fully with the state mortgage regulators throughout the process and entered into the agreement solely to resolve the matter without admitting any wrongdoing or legal/regulatory violations."

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