Regulators on the speaking circuit.

Author:Sichelman, Lew
Position:Road Warrior

Joseph Smith, the former North Carolina commissioner of banks who has been tapped to monitor the monster settlement between 49 state attorneys general (AGs) and the Big Five mortgage servicers, rode the speaking circuit late this summer.

In late August, the affable Mr. Smith, whose trip to Washington to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was canceled by the political standoff between Democrats and Republicans in Congress, called the compact he is now charged with overseeing "an astonishing achievement," a true example of "bi-partisan, federal and state cooperation."

"No matter what anybody thinks are the shortcomings" of the agreement, he said at the American Association of Residential Mortgage Regulators (AARMR) Annual Conference in Boston, it shows that when two sides "put their minds to it, they can agree on public policy."

And speaking of the CFPB, Smith also told the state regulators that his Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight will not be competing with the now year-old consumer protection agency.

"We're not in a road race," he said, noting that unlike his office, the CFPB is permanent. "We are going to cooperate. All of us have the same goal--to point out to industry where there are deficiencies and how to address them."

In mid-September, Smith also spoke in his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, at the North Carolina Bankers Association's American Mortgage Conference, where he said the money aspect of the $25 billion servicing settlement is not as important as the changes afoot in loan administration.

"The servicing standards, the new ways we go about our work, will extend far beyond the life of the settlement," he said. "They have the potential to make borrowing fairer and more transparent for generations to come. And that means a system that's more stable, more reliable, and ultimately more profitable for everyone."

At the AARMR meeting, meanwhile, several other speakers offered up some notable quotes. For example, Edwin Chow, director of the CFPB's Western Region, said his agency "is not on a witch hunt looking for violators."

And Steven Antonakes, the former commissioner of banks for the commonwealth of Massachusetts who also is now at the CFPB, where he serves as associate director for supervision, enforcement and fair lending, said the bureau will not pursue "the 'gotcha' mentality that existed with other regulators in the past."

On the housing front, meanwhile, the Urban Land Institute's (ULI's)...

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