Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How One Foreclosure Defense Attorney Stumbled Into The Dubious World Of Force Placed Insurance

From a recent story in American Banker:

  • [W]hen attorney Jeffrey Golant took on his first forced-placement case, he thought he was looking at an administrative mistake.

    A solo practitioner in Pompano Beach, Fla., Golant splits his time between foreclosure defense and insurance cases. He had been referred his first forced-placement case by his mother, Margery Golant — also a longtime foreclosure defense attorney — in May of 2008 when the dispute veered into insurance territory.

    The problems should have been quick to sort out, Golant recalls. His client was current on her mortgage and claimed the lapse of insurance coverage on her home was the result of her previous insurer's error. Much of the new policy's coverage was redundant, Golant said, duplicating flood and wind policies that had remained in place. Moreover, billing her for expensive retroactive hurricane protection, for a year when there had been no significant storms, struck Golant as inherently ridiculous.

    "I really thought they'd added an extra digit," he said.

    But the servicer that had requested the policy — nominally Zions Bancorp., though like many regional banks, the company outsources its servicing and does not involve itself in loan-level decisions — wouldn't back down. The backdating was appropriate because "Had there been damage to your property during the uninsured time … you would have benefited significantly," the servicer said in one letter.

    The Mortgage Bankers Association told American Banker that retroactive coverage is necessary to prevent gaps in insurance. But asked for an opinion on backdating a policy by nine months, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners told American Banker that insurance is "prospective in nature." Therefore, policies "should not be back-dated to collect premiums for a time period that has already passed," the trade group for state insurance regulators said.

    The case got stranger when Golant's client visited the address listed for the insurer in an unsuccessful attempt to sort things out, he said. While the people there claimed to represent the servicer, they were operating out of an office belonging to a force-placed policy insurer since acquired by QBE Insurance Group.

    Golant didn't understand why the insurer would be speaking on behalf of the servicer. But shortly after he began asking questions about the relationship between servicer and insurer, the case settled. Confidentially. At the insurer's request.

    With the matter resolved, it would have made sense for a Florida solo practitioner who handles as many as 50 cases at any one time to move on. Golant, however, started investigating the connections between multibillion-dollar banks and specialty insurers.

    "Frankly, it was their speed and willingness to settle that made me think they were not at all confident about the arrangement," Golant said. "I was still in the dark. But I got curious."
For more, see Ties to Insurers Could Land Mortgage Servicers in More Trouble.

Thanks to Deontos for the heads-up on the story.

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