New York Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo has subpoenaed the nation’s two largest financiers of home mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in his investigation into the “systemic fraud” that has infected the business of real estate appraisals.
From the AG’s office:
Today’s announcement marks the latest expansion of Cuomo’s industry-wide investigation of mortgage fraud. Last week, Cuomo filed suit against First American Corporation (NYSE: FAF), and its subsidiary eAppraiseIt, one of the nation’s largest real estate appraisal management companies, for colluding with Washington Mutual to inflate the appraisal values of homes.
“In order to fulfill their duty to consumers and investors, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must ensure that Washington Mutual’s mortgages have not been corrupted by inflated appraisals,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Our expanding investigation into the mortgage industry has uncovered that Washington Mutual improperly pressured appraisers to provide inflated values that best served the lender’s interest. Knowing this, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac cannot afford to continue buying Washington Mutual mortgages unless they are sure these loans are based on reliable and independent appraisals.”
The AG’s office requested information about all of the mortgage loans Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac have purchased from any bank, including WaMu, and the mortgage backed securities associated with those loans, in addition to various other information about appraisals and valuations from originating lenders.
WaMu sold $27.7 billion dollars in loans to Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2007, according to the AG.
“The integrity of our mortgage system depends on independent appraisers,” said Cuomo. “Washington Mutual compromised the fairness of this system by illegally pressuring appraisers to provide inflated values. Every company that buys loans from Washington Mutual must be sure that the loans they purchased are not corrupted by this systemic fraud.”
The President of the Appraisal Institute offered a quote for the AG’s press release:
“I wish I could say I am shocked by the discoveries made by the Attorney General and his staff. Sadly, what allegedly happened between First American and Washington Mutual is not an isolated incident. Rather, it is symbolic of a problem that has plagued the appraisal industry for years,” said Terry Dunkin, President of the Appraisal Institute. “As the allegations against First American show, the mortgage industry’s dirty secret has been that banks exert tremendous pressure to extort appraisers.”