It seems as though the closer I get to being a full fledged mortgage loan officer, the further away I really am. Right now, as of today, I can originate mortgage loans in VA and NC. This after 36 hours of class time, one long exam and two bouts of Federal background checks and two sets of fingerprinting. But not for long. I started recently but within 4 months...
... the Feds have commenced a national system of licensing for mortgage brokers, which negates everything I've done leading to this February. Under current law, I can only originate mortgages until June 2010 unless I pass a 100-question national exam and submit to a national police background check, including a third set of fingerprints So, I'm back to school, and back to fingerprinting.
Enter irony. Banks, as in your local corner bank are exempt. In a former life, we regularly promoted tellers and other non-lending staff to mortgage lenders. They spent two or three days at the bank's mortgage loan area, shadowing underwriters and such, then we turned them loose on the world. Ditto with what North Carolina calls "Mortgage Lenders". These are non-bank originators of mortgage loans. Unlike brokers but similar to banks, they fund their own loans. Think companies like the former Countrywide, or internet net lenders such as Ditech.com. They are all exempt from classes, exams, licenses, and any sort of audit trail that would follow them around the state or, for that matter, the nation.
To be a non-bank mortgage loan officer in NC, I had to take 24 hours of class time, pass a 50 question exam administered by the State Commissioner of Banks, obtain fingerprints from my local police department, and submit to a full background check (FBI, State, criminal). For Virginia, I had to submit my NC test scores, my 24 hours of NC class time, and take an additional 12 hours of VA specific state law classes, pass the class and submit transcripts and fingerprints. Your local bank mortgage lender could have been a file clerk the week before. Although I never took the classes, I also submitted to a full criminal investigation in my pre-licensing procdure for a Series 7 stock brokers license. My prints are everywhere and my criminality, dating back to 1974 has been vetted four times, plus whatever my prior bank employers did to obtain bonds and such. I've peed in more cups than I can count for drug tests over the years, and been polygraphed twice as part of the application process for certain banks.
But the story gets richer. The national system, known as the National Mortgage Licensing Service (NMLS), requires me to register, obtain and post my unique identifier on anything I mail, sign or solicit, and allows anyone to go on the Internet and check my performance, complaints, and any actions taken against me. It prevents me from being disciplined in one state and moving on to another. Even school teachers with child abuse records are subject to less scrutiny. And no one in a commercial bank or national mortgage lending chain is subject to this audit trail.
But the irony extends further. The fingerprints I obtained at the Nags Head Police Department, duly certified and submitted to VA and NC...they are worthless to the Feds. The criminal checks conducted by the NC and VA Commisioner of Banks...equally useless. I have to go to a Federal government approved office to get new prints. And after all this testing, required classroom training and police background checks and finger prints, where do you think the NMLS is sending me for fingerprints? The FBI? No. Homeland Security? Wrong again.
I won't name the company, but they are sending me to one of those places (in Virginia no less) that rents non-U.S. Postal Service "mail boxes". And, while you may not realize, anyone in the banking industry knows these mail drops are significant hosts to fraud schemes. They rent you a "box", but the mail goes to a street address, and while you can use "Box 150" as a further identifier, no one at these companies cares if you choose to utilize the term "Suite 150", making the non-wary think your credit card number stealing ring is actually a nice company with an office suite in some skyscraper.
This is NOT an opinion on the company that will take my prints next week. But, it just plays into the entire Federal morass. They created the mortgage crisis. Their attempts to rid the industry of "bad eggs" folded their cards to big lobbies--which is why banks and mortgage lenders are exempt while mortgage brokers are buried. And, this is how a police department or a state regulatory agency that already owns your prints and has run criminal checks on you gets bypassed so that "Joe's 24 Hour Mail Depot" can process your new fingerprint card.
If you think this wrong, let Rep. Barney Frank know. And locally, tell our Rep. Walter Jones, who sits on the House Banking Committee. If you just think it stupid, then send me your wine list or Sam's Club order. While in Hampton Roads, I can pick up your orders and deliver. Trust me. I've been vetted four times now by three regulatory agencies. Even your Congressman can't claim that much scrutiny.