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ATLANTA – John A. Horn, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, and Brian J. Stretch, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, announced that the United States has settled civil mortgage fraud claims against Prospect Mortgage Company, LLC (“Prospect”) stemming from Prospect’s participation in the Direct Endorsement Lender Program, which is administered by the Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”).
“To participate in the FHA program, Prospect had to comply with HUD underwriting and quality control requirements and certify that these requirements had been satisfied with respect to each FHA loan it originated,” said John A. Horn, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. “Prospect failed to adhere to these requirements at two Southeastern branches and when many of these loans later defaulted, the United States suffered substantial losses.”
“Prospect’s knowing failure to comply with material HUD loan origination requirements not only resulted in major losses to the public fisc, but also served to undermine the FHA program,” said Brian Stretch, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California. “Today’s settlement demonstrates the Department of Justice’s resolve and commitment to hold lenders, large and small, accountable for this type of fraudulent conduct.”
“Ensuring the fiscal integrity of FHA programs is at the core of our mission,” said Acting HUD Inspector General Helen M. Albert. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and root out those that seek to compromise such programs that are directly intended to assist the American public,” he concluded.
In this settlement, Prospect has agreed to pay the United States $4.157 million to resolve an investigation conducted by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Northern Districts of Georgia and California into whether Prospect violated the False Claims Act by falsely certifying compliance with critical underwriting and quality control (“QC”) requirements when originating loans insured by the FHA and HUD. As revealed by an Atlanta HUD-Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) audit, two Prospect branches – one in Florida and another in North Carolina – originated many of these loans without adhering to the requisite HUD requirements. As a result, the United States suffered substantial losses when the loans defaulted and ripened into claims by Prospect for insurance payments from the United States.
Prospect participated in the FHA insurance program as a Direct Endorsement Lender (“DE Lender”). As a DE Lender, Prospect had the authority to originate, underwrite, and endorse mortgages for FHA insurance. If a DE Lender approves a mortgage loan for FHA insurance, and the loan later defaults, the holder of the loan may submit an insurance claim to the Government to recover its losses on the loan. Under the DE Program, the Government does not review a loan before endorsement for FHA insurance. Instead, FHA and HUD rely upon DE Lenders like Prospect to follow program rules, which require, among other things, that a lender: (1) adhere to HUD underwriting guidelines; (2) maintain a QC program that can identify and correct deficiencies in their underwriting practices; and (3) self-report to HUD materially deficient loans identified by their QC program.
Between December 2007 and December 2009, Prospect had a 12.29 percent default rate – well in excess of the national average – within HUD’s Atlanta Home Ownership Center (“HOC”). HUD determined that approximately 76% of these defaults were attributable to two particular Prospect branches located in Florida and North Carolina. The Government’s investigation revealed that the majority of the audited loans from these branches were not compliant with HUD underwriting requirements relating to Prospect’s assessment of borrower: (1) assets; (2) income; and (3) credit, which are essential considerations in determining whether a loan will be repaid, as opposed to going into default or serious delinquency.
As part of the settlement, Prospect has acknowledged among other things, the following conduct that occurred in the two Prospect branches at issue:
Prospect endorsed for FHA insurance loans that had not been originated in accordance with HUD requirements concerning a DE Lender’s assessment of assets, income, and credit.
Prospect falsely certified that the non-compliant loans that it originated had been underwritten in accordance with HUD underwriting requirements.
As evidenced by its 12.29% default rate within the Atlanta HOC, and the fact that 76% percent of such defaults were attributable to one branch office in Florida and another in North Carolina, Prospect failed to adhere to HUD quality control guidelines.
The investigation of this case was a coordinated effort between the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Northern Districts of Georgia and California, HUD, and HUD-OIG.
This resolution with Prospect is the latest in a string of civil fraud cases pursued by the United States in recent years alleging fraudulent lending practices by residential mortgage lenders.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paris A. Wynn handled this matter for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.