Private debt collectors are subject to a variety of laws policing their collection of private debts. The Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (FDCPA) imposes clear and strict requirements on debt collectors – such as preventing them from shaming consumers into payment by publishing the names or calling their parents, preventing them from lying to consumers or threatening them with illegal behavior.
However, FDCPA applies only to consumer transactions and does not cover matters such as tax debts. Boyd v. J.E. Robert Co., 765 F.3d 123 (2d Cir. 2014); Beggs v. Rossi, 145 F.3d 511 (2d Cir. 1998). Federal employees are also specially exempted from the FDCPA. 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(6)(C).
So, what’s left to protect taxpayers?
Troubles Mount for Ocwen in Maryland and Around the Country Due to Mounting Regulatory Actions and Private Lawsuits, and Ocwen Stock Plummets
Ocwen, which has an outsized presence in Maryland and which is the largest subprime mortgage servicer in the United States, has settled allegations by New York’s financial regulator, but still faces trouble in California. It is also in serious financial trouble: its stock closed at $7.71 on January 21, which is down from $16.01 a month ago, and down from $49.13 a year ago.
As his press release explains, New York’s Benjamin Lawsky, the Superintendent of Financial Services, alleged that Ocwen had a “serious conflict of interests” and had engaged in a variety of servicing misconduct including
(a) robo-signing, (b) inaccurate affidavits and failure to properly validate document execution processes, (c) missing documentation, (d) wrongful foreclosure, (e) failure to properly maintain books and records, and (f) initiation of foreclosure actions without proper legal standing.
Ocwen Servicing Abuses in Maryland and Elsewhere: Foreclosures Spark Lawsky Investigation and Lawsuits
Ocwen is a mortgage servicing company: it’s paid to collect payments from consumers in Maryland and elsewhere, deal with escrow accounts, and sort out any problems that arise. Servicers do not necessarily own the mortgage itself, only the “servicing rights”. The CFPB’s guidance for examining mortgage servicers explains “[t]his is because some entities have expertise in payment processing and other servicing responsibilities, while others seek to invest in the underlying mortgages.” Mortgage servicers are supposed to help the mortgage repayment process run smoothly and to deal with problems – such as mistakes in escrow or missed payments. According to Ocwen’s slogan “Helping homeowners is what we do!”
However, lawsuits filed in Maryland and around the country accuse Ocwen of everything from blatant fraud to utter incompetence, all to the detriment of the homeowners it claims to be helping. A lawsuit filed in Florida recently accuses Ocwen of needlessly forcing homeowners into foreclosure by turning minor problems into major ones. NPR reports the story of one couple who were charged massive fees after an error regarding property taxes: