Two federal lawsuits against appraisal management companies could become weapons for mortgage-backed securities investors seeking to make lenders buy back soured loans.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., in its position as receiver for the failed thrift company Washington Mutual Inc., has charged that eAppraiseIT, a subsidiary of CoreLogic Inc., and LSI Appraisal, a subsidiary of Lender Processing Services Inc., performed sloppy appraisals that led to losses of at least several hundred million dollars at WaMu.
In lawsuits filed in early May, the agency claimed that more than 75% of appraisals performed by the two AMCs contained multiple violations of industry standards.
CoreLogic and LPS have countered that there is no basis for such claims. But no matter how the FDIC cases turn out, experts contend the lawsuits could provide a road map for MBS investors involved in or considering mortgage put-back cases. Establishing a pattern of defective appraisals, they said, can be an effective strategy for lawyers who have been stymied in obtaining loan files.
"Each time the government steps in like this they are going to be providing evidence that can be used by private litigants to bolster their case," said Isaac Gradman, an attorney in California and managing member of IMG Enterprises LLC, an MBS consulting firm.
Locating faulty appraisals can be used as a wedge to get trustees to release loan files, Gradman said. Much of the recent MBS put-back litigation has focused on mortgage servicing violations, which are more tenuous claims for put-back cases than ones involving mortgage origination, he said.
With the FDIC cases, "it is much more direct," Gradman said, "so it is more apples to apples."
Some law firms are already using appraisals as the basis for mortgage put-back claims, said one lawyer, who declined to be identified because he is directly involved in several cases.