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By Steve In response to rapidly deteriorating financial market conditions in the late summer and early fall of 2008, Congress enacted the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. The centerpiece of the Act was the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which required the Secretary of the Treasury to ‘implement a plan that seeks to maximize assistance for homeowners and … encourage the servicers of the underlying mortgages to take advantage of available programs to minimize foreclosures. Congress also granted the Secretary the authority to use loan guarantees and credit enhancements to facilitate loan modifications to prevent avoidable foreclosures.
Pursuant to this authority, in February 2009 the Secretary set aside up to $50 billion of TARP funds to induce lenders to refinance mortgages with more favorable interest rates and thereby allow homeowners to avoid foreclosure. The Secretary negotiated Servicer Participation Agreements (SPAs) with dozens of home loan servicers. Under the terms of the SPAs, servicers agreed to identify homeowners who were in default or would likely soon be in default on their mortgage payments, and to modify the loans of those eligible under the program. In exchange, servicers would receive a $1,000 payment for each permanent modification, along with other incentives. The SPAs were required to follow a three-step process:
First, the borrower had to meet certain threshold requirements, including that the loan originated on or before January 1, 2009; it was secured by the borrower’s primary residence; the mortgage payments were more than 31percent of the borrower’s monthly income; and, for a one-unit home, the current unpaid principal balance was no greater than $729,750;
Second, the servicer calculated a modification using a ‘waterfall’ method, applying enumerated changes in a specified order until the borrower’s monthly mortgage payment ratio dropped ‘as close as possible to 31percent;
Third, the servicer applied a Net Present Value (NPV) test to assess whether the modified mortgage’s value to the servicer would be greater than the return on the mortgage if unmodified. The NPV test is ‘essentially an accounting calculation to determine whether it is more profitable to modify the loan or allow the loan to go into foreclosure. If the NPV result was negative-that is, the value of the modified mortgage would be lower than the servicer’s expected return after foreclosure-the servicer was not obliged to offer a modification. If the NPV was positive, however, the Treasury directives said that ‘the servicer MUST offer the modification.‘
Where a borrower qualified for a HAMP loan modification, …read more

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