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Senate Bill Bans Mortgage Kickbacks, Liar Loans

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An amendment introduced by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar aimed at protecting homeowners from deceptive lending practices passed the Senate by a vote of 63-36 today.

As a result, mortgage lenders and loan originators will be banned from accepting payments based on the interest rate and other terms of the loan, which effectively wipes out loan steering.

The legislation also seemingly kills off yield spread premium, which was one of the main ways mortgage brokers were compensated (how mortgage brokers make money).

“Deceptive mortgage practices like hidden steering payments directly led to the Wall Street meltdown and resulted in millions of families losing their homes,” said Senator Merkley in a release.

“We took a huge stride forward today in the fight to restore fairness for homeowners and strengthen the financial foundations of our families. I look forward to seeing this amendment become law so that never again will hidden steering payments put millions of homeowners on the fast track to foreclosure.”

Current rules allow loan originators and mortgage lenders to place borrowers into higher-cost and riskier loans, even when they qualify for more affordable loans.

Merkley cited a WSJ study, which found that 61 percent of subprime loans originated in 2006 went to borrowers who qualified for prime loans.

The bill will also require lenders to document income and “other underwriting standards” to ensure borrowers can actually repay their loans, putting an end to no doc loans and so-called “liar loans,” otherwise known as stated income loans.

These are huge changes and the implications may be great for the mortgage industry.

The amendment was also co-sponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Scott Brown (R-MA), Mark Begich (D-AK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Al Franken (D-MN) and John Kerry (D-MA).

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