SEC Slaps Ocwen With Subpoena Over Business Ties

SEC Slaps Ocwen With Subpoena Over Business Ties
Ocwen Financial Corporation

Mortgage servicer Ocwen Financial Corp (NYSE:OCN) disclosed in its regulatory filing this week that it had received a subpoena from the SEC over its close relationships with affiliated companies.

Ocwen’s management reportedly own stock or stock options in the affiliated companies.

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Subpoena from SEC

In its regulatory filing this week, Ocwen Financial Corp (NYSE:OCN) disclosed that the Securities and Exchange Commission sought documents related to a group of companies with which it conducts business. The mortgage servicer’s executive chairman, William C. Erbey, is also chairman of some of the other companies, including Altisource Portfolio Solutions, which does things like buy up delinquent loans and rent out foreclosed houses.

As reported earlier, Benjamin Lawsky, head of the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS), has sent a letter to Ocwen’s general counsel, Timothy Hayes, concerning conflicts of interest between Altisource Portfolio Solutions S.A. (NASDAQ:ASPS) and Ocwen. ASPS offers a variety of services for Ocwen Financial Corp, such as appraisals, vendor management and other services related to loan modification and processing foreclosures. Lawsky seems concerned that both ASPS and Ocwen were using the same Chief Risk Officer, a situation which has been corrected.

Ocwen Financial’s tangled web of conflicts

Ocwen Financial Corp (NYSE:OCN)’s investors are concerned that Ocwen and its business ties are rife with potential conflicts. However, Ocwen executives assuage their feelings by reiterating that all transactions between the companies are at “arm’s length,” though some investors are not sure whether the companies are overcharging for their services and whether those costs are being passed on to the mortgage bond investors.

Altisource Portfolio Solutions S.A. (NASDAQ:ASPS) provides various technology services to Ocwen, which is Altisource’s largest customer, accounting for 65% of the business. Ocwen has doubled in size over the past year. Lawsky is considering Ocwen from the perspective that the company isn’t equipped to handle the growth of its servicing portfolio. Lawsky’s office had intervened earlier this year in a deal in which Ocwen agreed to purchase the rights to service $39 billion worth of mortgages from Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE:WFC).

The mortgage servicer was also in the news recently when it announced that it would be restating its 2Q14 earnings, citing potential “material weakness” in its previously filed earnings statement. In its SEC filing Monday, Ocwen disclosed that the SEC intends to issue an additional subpoena “in relation to such amendments.”

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