VA Circular 26-13-27 Increases in Allowable Attorney Fees and Preferred Foreclosure Methods

On December 16, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released
Circular 26-13-27, subtitled Increases in Allowable Attorney Fees and Changes in Preferred Foreclosure Methods.

Circular 26-13-27
Increases in Allowable Attorney Fees and Changes in Preferred Foreclosure Methods

1. Purpose. The purpose of this Circular is to announce new maximum attorney fees allowable in guaranty claims, and changes in preferred foreclosure methods.

2. Background. Computation of guaranty claims is addressed in Title 38, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), § 36.4324, which states that one part of the indebtedness upon which the guaranty percentage is applied is the allowable expenses/advances as described in § 36.4314. Paragraph (b)(5)(ii) of that section describes the procedures to be followed in determining what constitutes the reasonable and customary fees for legal services in the termination of a loan. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs annually reviews allowances for legal fees in connection with the termination of single-family housing loans, including foreclosure, deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, and bankruptcy-related services, issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. When the Secretary determines that a change in the maximum allowable amount of attorney fees is necessary, a notice is published in the Federal Register with a new table of maximum allowable fees.

3. New Allowable Attorney Fees. Based on increased expenses for foreclosure actions, the Secretary has deemed it necessary to revise the amounts determined to be reasonable and customary for foreclosure legal services, and published a new table in the Federal Register at 78 FR 67465 on November 12, 2013. The attached Exhibit A is a table representing the Secretary’s determination of the reasonable and customary cost of legal services for the preferred method of terminating Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) home loans in each jurisdiction under the provisions of 38 CFR § 36.4314(b)(5)(ii). This table is effective for loans terminated on or after December 12, 2013. There is no change to the amounts we will allow for attorney fees for deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure or for bankruptcy relief. We are aware that other ongoing reviews of these fees are being conducted, and will continue to monitor these fees on an annual basis.

4. Loan Termination. The new fees are effective for loans terminated on or after December 12, 2013. We consider a loan to be terminated as of the date of the final foreclosure event. Even if the foreclosure started a year or more ago, we will allow the new maximum attorney fee if the loan is terminated on or after December 12, 2013, and the amount actually paid for legal services is equal to or greater than the new maximum amount allowed in that jurisdiction. VA is not a party to contracts between servicers and attorneys, who must resolve any questions regarding billing and payment of fees in the new amounts. The final foreclosure event is published in the “State Foreclosure Process and Statutory Bid Information” table under the “Document Library” on the VA Loan Electronic Reporting Interface (VALERI) webpage, which is available through: http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/servicers_valeri.asp. This is also where the new table for allowable attorney fees may be found, as well as the VALERI Fee Cost Schedule, which will display the new amounts in red type for a period of time.
 
5. Changes In Preferred Foreclosure Methods. The table in Exhibit A shows the primary method for foreclosing in each State, either judicial or non-judicial, with the exception of those States where either judicial or non-judicial is acceptable. The use of a method not authorized in the table will require prior approval from VA. The new VA table closely mirrors methods for foreclosure allowed by Fannie Mae, with the following exceptions:

a. Hawaii. We determined that in Hawaii the preferred method of foreclosure remains only the judicial method. We are aware that Hawaii has established a new non-judicial foreclosure procedure; however, we believe this new method is not yet well-established enough to provide acceptable title to the real estate community. We will continue to monitor the situation in Hawaii, and will make necessary changes as conditions warrant.

b. Other States. Three other jurisdictions requiring special mention include Oregon, South Dakota, and Nebraska. We continue to prefer the non-judicial method in Oregon and see no need to allow the judicial method on a regular basis. However, we determined that the non-judicial procedure in South Dakota is no longer a preferred method of foreclosure. Also, in the past we routinely allowed either the non-judicial or judicial method of foreclosure in Nebraska. At this time, we are designating non-judicial as the preferred method of foreclosure in Nebraska, although special approval may be requested for a case where judicial foreclosure is deemed necessary.

6. Rescission: This Circular is rescinded January 1, 2017.

By Direction of the Under Secretary for Benefits

Michael J. Frueh
Director, Loan Guaranty Service

Please click here to view the online Circular.

About Safeguard 
Safeguard Properties is the largest mortgage field services company in the U.S. Founded in 1990 by Robert Klein and based in Valley View, Ohio, the company inspects and maintains defaulted and foreclosed properties for mortgage servicers, lenders,  and other financial institutions. Safeguard employs approximately 1,700 people, in addition to a network of thousands of contractors nationally. Website: www.safeguardproperties.com.

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CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.

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Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.

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CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER

George Mehok

George Mehok is the chief information officer for Safeguard. He is responsible for all strategic technology decisions, new systems deployments and data center operations supporting a national network of more than 10,000 mobile workers.

George has more than 20 years of leadership experience dedicated to high-growth companies in the mobile telecommunications and financial services industries, spanning startups to global industry leaders.

George played a senior role in the formation of Verizon Wireless, leading the IT product development and strategic planning team. He led the integration planning for the Verizon merger including: GTE, Vodafone-AirTouch, Bell Atlantic Mobile and PrimeCo.

As chief information officer at Revol Wireless, a VC-backed CDMA wireless communications network operator, George’s team implemented an integrated technology infrastructure and award-winning business intelligence platform.

George holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Eastern Michigan University and an M.B.A. from The Ohio State University. He is a board member of Akron University’s School of Business Center for Information Technology, in addition to an advisory board member for OHTec.

In 2013, George won the Crain’s Cleveland Business CIO of the Year award for his team’s work in completing a major acquisition and technology transformation at Safeguard. In 2015, George’s team was recognized by InformationWeek’s annual Elite 100 ranking of the most innovative U.S.-based users of business technology. The mobile inspection technology developed at Safeguard was selected as InformationWeek’s “One of the top 20 ideas to steal in 2015”.

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General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard, with oversight responsibilities for the legal, human resources, training, compliance and audit departments. Linda’s broad scope of oversight covers regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, pro-active risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human capital and training initiatives, compliance and audit services, litigation and claims management, and counsel related to mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda’s oversight of the legal department along with multiple compliance and human capital focused departments assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans almost 20 years, and Linda’s experience, both as outside and in-house counsel, covers a wide range of corporate matters, including regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.

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Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.

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AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.

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AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.

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AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.

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AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.

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AVP, Business Development

Tim Rath

Tim Rath is the AVP of business development for Safeguard. He is responsible for developing innovative growth strategies for Safeguard and developing and overseeing potential partnerships, mergers and acquisitions.

Tim joined Safeguard in 2011 as project director and has filled numerous roles within Vendor Management, most recently serving as director of vendor management, a role he assumed in 2011.

Prior to Safeguard, Tim worked as director of supply chain at PartsSource Inc. in Aurora, Ohio, a provider of medical replacement parts, procurement solutions and healthcare supply chain management technology services. He also has held sales positions with Rexel, ComDoc, and Pier Associates, all based in Ohio.

Tim holds a degree in marketing and sales from The University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. He also earned his FAA Certified Commercial UAS (Drone) Pilot license in 2017.

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Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.