This is another in a series of articles by Mediate.com News Editor, Keith Seat, updating readers on the development of foreclosure mediation in the United States.
A National Foreclosure Mediation Program was launched in February to support the 26 states throughout the U.S. that have foreclosure mediation requirements. Hope LoanPort, a 501(c)(3) organization, launched the processing solution, which was supported financially by Wells Fargo. Twenty mortgage servicing partners have implemented the program and over 1,400 counseling agencies have been registered. GeeksWorld.com (April 8, 2014)
In April, the governor of Maine signed legislation to strengthen the role of foreclosure mediation by incorporating National Mortgage Settlement standards and strengthening standards and training for foreclosure mediators. A report by the attorney general of Maine also recommended expanding the foreclosure mediation program by the judiciary. RealEstateRama (April 14, 2014)
The Supreme Court of Maine upheld dismissal with prejudice of a complaint seeking foreclosure after the lender failed to appear at three mediation sessions, noting that lesser sanctions and warnings had not been effective to alter the lender’s behavior. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC, v. Bartlett, No. Yor-13-298 (Me., March 4, 2014)
A court of appeals in Ohio found that the trial court lacked authority to dismiss an action after unsuccessfully attempting to assist the parties in reaching a loan modification agreement over the course of a year, because the trial court had previously entered a judgment and decree in foreclosure and could not sua sponte vacate its own final order. Bank of America v. Bruggeman, No. 25763 (Ohio C.A. 2d Dist., March 28, 2014)
Foreclosure mediation is among the items expected to be funded in New York with $440 million from the state’s settlement with JPMorgan relating to mortgage-backed securities. The Republic (March 31, 2014)
The Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution received a $500,000 grant from the state attorney general in 2013 as part of the national mortgage settlement with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers in 2012. The Center conducted a mortgage foreclosure training for 40 mediators in April to assist in resolving foreclosures throughout Alabama; mediators are located in 23 of the 67 counties in the state. The cost of foreclosure mediation in Alabama will be covered by the grant through April 2015. Selma Times-Journal (April 28, 2014)
The City of Lynn, Massachusetts signed a contract in April with a dispute resolution firm to handle mortgage foreclosure mediations required by a city ordinance promulgated last May. Banks, who are responsible for a $650 mediation fee, believe the resolution process should be handled by state regulators and are evaluating their legal options. ItemLive.com (April 25, 2014); The Daily Item (March 7, 2014)
The City of Worcester, Massachusetts approved $75,000 in funding for the new city foreclosure mediation ordinance, with opponents urging delay until legal challenges to similar ordinances in Springfield are resolved. Lenders will be charged a mediation registration fee to be determined once more accurate information is available about the costs of the program. The Commons (March 26, 2014); Telegram.com (March 24, 2014)
Some 360 cases remain on the foreclosure mediation docket of a federal judge in Rhode Island which are expected to be completed by the end of the summer, even though the appellate court found fault with the judge’s stay order last June. The judge issued a new stay order in December to streamline the mediation process by limiting it to owner-occupied residential properties and setting a 180-day resolution deadline. Providence Journal (April 18, 2014)
Last summer’s change in the foreclosure mediation law in Oregon created a backlog of foreclosures, which is likely to cause an increase in the number of foreclosures in Oregon this year over last year. Nationwide, foreclosures are at a seven-year low, dropping 27 percent compared to a year ago. The Register-Guard (March 18, 2014)
Keith L. Seat is a full-time mediator and arbitrator who can effectively assist parties in resolving a wide range of telecommunications, antitrust and other commercial disputes. With over twenty years of legal experience as a mediator, arbitrator, litigator, advocate before executive branch agencies, and key staffer in the legislative and judicial branches, Mr. Seat brings a wealth of experience to his work as a mediator and arbitrator to help parties reach successful resolutions of complex disputes.
Mr. Seat began his legal career in a federal clerkship with U.S. District Judge William H. Becker, and then litigated antitrust and commercial disputes for many years at a major Washington law firm, Howrey, Simon, Arnold & White, where he first worked on telecom and technology issues. In 1993, Mr. Seat was named General Counsel of the Antitrust, Business Rights and Competition Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, where he served for four years, playing a significant role in the enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Returning to the private sector in 1997, Mr. Seat rounded out his experience with a senior in-house counsel position at MCI, one of the nation’s largest telecommunications firms. At MCI, he gained a first-hand appreciation for the important perspective brought to issues and disputes by in-house decision-makers. Mr. Seat also deepened his knowledge of telecom issues and gained experience addressing competition-related issues in the corporate setting, as well as helping resolve disputes among large organizations.