There is currently an investigation against Washington Mutual (WaMu) and First American Corporation in connection with home mortgages made by WaMu. The investigation concerns allegations that First American allowed WaMu to control appraisal values and apply pressure to appraisers to get housing value estimates raised in order to help close loans. Certain reports also allege that WaMu 'cherry picked,' which First American appraisers would appraise WaMu financial properties, based on which appraisers WaMu viewed would provide values high enough to permit WaMu's loans to close.
First American Corporation provides real estate appraisal services to savings and loans, banks and other lending professionals through First American eAppraiseIT, an appraisal management company. WaMu is First American's largest client.
On November 1, 2007, the Attorney General of New York filed a complaint making similar allegations.
If these allegations are correct, then homeowners would have obtained artificially inflated mortgages from WaMu and may have overpaid for their homes.
WaMu Appraisal Articles:Washington Mutual Appraisals Investigated by the SEC
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is now investigating allegations about Washington Mutual's practice of inflating home appraisals. The SEC's investigation will look at whether WaMu accurately told investors how its loans were appraised and whether the company's loans were properly disclosed to investors.
Washington Mutual Faces Class Action Lawsuit
Washington Mutual faces a class action lawsuit alleging the company committed securities fraud by over-inflating home appraisals while also inflating prices. The lawsuit follows a complaint filed by the New York Attorney General's office that names Washington Mutual as pressuring other companies to provide inflated home appraisals.
WaMu: Shares Drop, Pressure Mounts Over Alleged Wrongdoing
It has been a week of tumult and turmoil for Washington Mutual and First American, since New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo initiated a lawsuit against First American and its real estate appraisal arm, eAppraiseIT alleging an illegal practice of inflating the values of homes to qualify for loans.
WaMu Inflated Valuations Hurt Consumers
Homeowners Angry at Washington Mutual's Appraisal Tactics
WaMu Appraisals In the News:DEC-16-07: WaMu faces several lawsuits including shareholder lawsuits, breach of fiduciary duty lawsuits, and a suit against an appraisal firm alleging WaMu pushed the company into inflating appraisal values. [TIMES: WAMU]
NOV-16-07: In related news, a First American Corp. title insurance subsidiary agreed to a $5 million settlement to dismiss federal and state allegations that it gave kickbacks for new business. [CNN: APPRAISAL KICKBACKS]
NOV-07-07: Shares in Washington Mutual have dropped drastically after New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said he was expanding his investigation of house-price appraisals. [THE STREET: WAMU]
NOV-5-07: An investor lawsuit has been filed in New York against Washington Mutual alleging inflation of home appraisal values. [REUTERS: WAMU APPRAISALS]
NOV-2-07: New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo is suing a unit of First American Corp. The suit contends it defrauded consumers by allowing Washington Mutual to inflate property values to ensure that loans went through. [WALL STREET JOURNAL: WASHINGTON MUTUAL]