By April N. Pinder, Esq.
During the week of September 20, 2013, National Foreclosure Settlement Agreement Monitor Joseph A. Smith, Jr. visited the state of Indiana. During this visit, Monitor Smith and Indiana Attorney General Gregg Zoeller held a round-table discussion regarding their past and current efforts in resolving the national foreclosure crisis.
Attorney General Zoeller discussed the bi-partisan efforts and collaboration across the legislative, judicial and executive branches to assist Indiana homeowners. He emphasized the positive effect Court Facilitators (mediators) have had on Indiana’s settlement conference (mediation) process. Court Facilitators are currently present in approximately 25% of all Indiana counties. In counties with a Court Facilitator, approximately 50% of all eligible foreclosure cases have a settlement conference. Of those conferences held, about 50% result in a workout alternative to foreclosure. This is comparatively higher than those counties without Court Facilitators, where only 36% of eligible cases have a settlement conference and of those conferences held, only 18% result in a workout alternative to foreclosure. Given this success, the plans are to introduce Court Facilitators into all Indiana counties in the near future.
Monitor Smith discussed the various ways in which participants are monitored and his findings thus far regarding the current state of compliance. He and others in the industry highlighted the following areas of concern: (i) the continued practice of dual-tracking and new “triple-tracking” – foreclosure and loss mitigation at the same time or foreclosure, loss mitigation and litigation at the same time; (ii) the current inefficiency of designated single points of contact (SPOC); (iii) the frequency with which conflicting and inaccurate information is still provided to homeowners; and (iv) reports of rude and uncooperative behavior regarding loss mitigation efforts. In the coming year, Monitor Smith will be focusing his efforts on the creation of a uniform loss mitigation financial package and a uniform definition for a “complete” loss mitigation financial package.
Overall, Monitor Smith applauded the efforts of the Indiana Supreme Court, Legislature and Attorney General in providing aid and relief to Indiana homeowners and requested updates of future Indiana progress.