Issue Date February 1, 2006 Audit Report Number 2006-DE-1002 TO: Brian D. Montgomery, Assistant Secretary for Housing – Federal Housing Commissioner, H //signed// FROM: Ronald J. Hosking, Regional Inspector General for Audit, 8AGA SUBJECT: American Title Services, Greenwood Village, Colorado, Did Not Comply with Contract Terms When Closing Sales of HUD-Owned Properties HIGHLIGHTS What We Audited and Why We audited American Title Services (American Title), a contractor closing sales of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) homes in Colorado. We performed the audit at the request of the director of the Denver Homeownership Center’s Real Estate Owned Division. We wanted to determine whether American Title complied with contract terms for closing sales of HUD homes. What We Found American Title did not comply with HUD contract terms for closing sales of HUD homes. It did not disburse funds on time or in correct amounts, improperly commingled HUD funds with retail funds, earned interest on closing funds, and did not reimburse HUD for bank charges. American Title was not prepared to perform its duties when it got the contract. Its poor handling of closing funds increased HUD’s and homebuyers’ risk of not meeting financial obligations and not receiving funds to which they were entitled. However, since HUD cut back its number of closings in August 2005, American Title’s performance improved. What We Recommend We recommend that HUD require that American Title correct the problems, improve controls, complete all disbursements, and pay HUD $4,380 in interest. For each recommendation without a management decision, please respond and provide status reports in accordance with HUD Handbook 2000.06, REV-3. Please furnish us copies of any correspondence or directives issued because of the audit. Auditee’s Response We provided the draft audit report to American Title on January 9, 2006 and received their written response on January 30, 2006. American Title agreed with the finding and recommendations. The complete text of American Title’s response is in appendix B of this report. 2 TABLE OF CONTENTS Background and Objectives 4 Results of Audit Finding 1: American Title Did Not Comply with the HUD Contract 5 Scope and Methodology 8 Internal Controls 9 Appendixes A. Schedule of Ineligible Costs 10 B. Auditee Comments 11 3 BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES The Federal Housing Administration administers the single-family mortgage program. Upon default and foreclosure of an insured loan, the lender files a claim for insurance benefits. In exchange for payment of a claim, the lender conveys the foreclosed property to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD homes are termed real estate-owned properties. HUD, through a management and marketing contractor, manages and sells these single-family homes to promote home ownership and maximize return to the insurance fund. To sell the properties, HUD contracts with a closing agent to perform all necessary closing activities. On February 11, 2005, HUD contracted with American Title Services (American Title) to close sales of HUD homes in the state of Colorado. American Title’s office is located in Greenwood Village, Colorado. From February 11 to August 15, 2005, American Title closed 1,102 sales of HUD homes. HUD received $135,430,468 in net sales proceeds. We wanted to determine whether American Title complied with HUD contract terms for closing HUD home sales. 4 RESULTS OF AUDIT Finding 1: American Title Did Not Comply with the HUD Contract American Title did not comply with HUD contract terms for closing sales of HUD homes. It did not disburse funds on time or in correct amounts, improperly commingled HUD funds with retail funds, earned interest on closing funds, and did not reimburse HUD for bank charges. American Title was not prepared to perform its duties when it got the contract. Its poor handling of closing funds increased HUD’s and homebuyers’ risk of not meeting financial obligations and not receiving funds to which they were entitled. However, since HUD cut back its number of closings in August 2005, American Title’s performance improved. Contract Violations American Title did not disburse funds on time or in correct amounts. Our review of 29 case files identified numerous deficiencies including $2,478 not disbursed correctly. The deficiencies included the following: • In 17 cases, American Title did not pay the homebuyer or HUD refunds totaling $1,912. • In five cases, American Title did not have sufficient funds to pay all expenses. The shortages totaled $319. • In four cases, American Title overpaid itself $247. • In 22 cases, American Title disbursed funds after closing although the contract requires payment of any allowable expenses at closing. In 14 of the 22 cases, American Title issued the last check more than 30 days after closing and more than 60 days after closing in 12 of the 14 cases. We discussed the deficiencies with American Title’s president and he took prompt action to correct them. Our review of the HUD trust account and the retail money market account showed that American Title commingled HUD funds with retail funds and improperly earned $4,380 in interest on closing funds. In 36 cases, lenders incorrectly wired funds to American Title’s retail money market account rather than to the HUD trust account. In 54 cases, American Title incorrectly deposited funds into the retail money market account. HUD funds deposited into the wrong account totaled $6,486,553. These funds remained in the retail money market account earning interest up to 41 days before American Title transferred the funds to the HUD trust account. 5 In addition, American Title had not reimbursed the HUD trust account $6,400 for bank charges through September 2005. The most recent reimbursement was on September 27, 2005, when American Title reimbursed the account $4,220. This payment was not sufficient to cover bank charges through May 31, 2005. We discussed reimbursement of bank charges with American Title’s president and he promptly reimbursed the HUD trust account the $6,400 for bank charges. American Title Not Prepared to Perform American Title was not prepared to close an estimated 200 sales per month. It did not have a quality control plan or written policies and procedures for closing sales of HUD homes. American Title did not implement a quality control plan until late August 2005, after HUD officials provided a cure notice for failure to perform. In addition, American Title had not trained employees on contract requirements, and its telephone system could not handle the high volume of calls. American Title did not have adequate controls over HUD trust account wires, deposits, and checks. For example, closers did not check wire confirmations to ensure banks wired funds to the correct bank account, did not always use the correct deposit slips, incorrectly used money market checks to disburse funds, and did not ensure the numbers of issued checks matched the check numbers in the accounting system. Increased Risk for HUD and Homebuyers American Title’s poor handling of closing funds increased HUD’s and homebuyers’ risk of not meeting financial obligations and not receiving funds to which they were entitled. American Title did not always disburse funds at closing to pay expenses such as real estate taxes, utility bills, and homeowner association dues. HUD received numerous complaints from homebuyers concerning delayed closings, problems contacting American Title by telephone, and payment of expenses. American Title’s delay in disbursing funds increased HUD’s and the homebuyers’ risk of not meeting their financial obligations, particularly if buyers wanted to resell their homes within a short time. In addition, American Title denied HUD and homebuyers funds to which they were entitled. Improved Performance Since HUD cut back the number of closings in August 2005, American Title has increased its staff, provided staff training on contract requirements, and incorporated a new telephone system designed to handle all customer calls. 6 American Title was also in the process of reviewing closed case files to make all necessary disbursements and to reconcile the case files. American Title also implemented steps to control deposit slips and checks. Now, only the president and the closing supervisor have access to the money market account deposit slips and checks. Each closer must sign out HUD trust account checks that the closing supervisor secures in a locked drawer. In September 2005, American Title added an employee test to its quality control plan to make employees more aware of HUD contract terms. In addition, it upgraded its telephone system to handle 24 calls at a time to better serve its clients. During the review, we expanded the audit period to October 15, 2005, to determine whether American Title had improved its performance. We reviewed 15 additional case files and found performance had improved. For the 15 case files, closers had disbursed all funds and reconciled all case files at closing. Each of the case files for closings after October 1, 2005, contained completed preclosing and postclosing checklists, ensuring that closers properly completed all documents and processes. Conclusion While American Title has made progress in implementing management controls, HUD must continue monitoring to ensure it corrects all of the problems. As of October 2005, closers were not checking wire confirmations to ensure banks wired funds to the correct bank account. In addition, American Title has not completed review of all case files to make all necessary disbursements and to reconcile the case files. Recommendations We recommend that the Assistant Secretary for Housing – Federal Housing Commissioner require American Title to 1A. Establish and implement management controls and a complete quality control plan to meet contract terms. 1B. Provide evidence that American Title has made all disbursements for previous closings ($2,478) and properly reconciled all case files before renewing the contract. 1C. Pay $4,380, the interest earned on closing funds improperly deposited into American Title’s retail money market account. 7 SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY Our review covered the period from February 11 to August 15, 2005. We extended the period to October 15, 2005, to meet our objective. To accomplish our objective, we reviewed • The contract between HUD and American Title and applicable HUD requirements, • HUD reviews of American Title, • American Title’s quality control plan and closing process, • Transactions in the HUD trust account and American Title’s money market account, and • Case files and related documentation. In addition, we interviewed American Title’s president and staff and HUD personnel. We selected case files from the Closing Agent Performance Report from HUD’s Single Family Acquired Asset Management System. We reviewed all 24 case files in which American Title wired sales proceeds to HUD more than nine days after the closing date. We also reviewed five case files HUD previously reviewed. We randomly selected 15 additional case files from American Title’s closing calendars for various dates between August 19 and October 14, 2005, to evaluate how well American Title implemented its management controls. We did not rely on computerized data and traced all information to source documents. We performed our audit work from September to November 2005. We conducted our fieldwork at American Title’s office at 7935 East Prentice Avenue, Suite 101, Greenwood Village, Colorado. We performed our review in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. 8 INTERNAL CONTROLS Internal control is an integral component of an organization’s management that provides reasonable assurance that the organization achieves the following objectives: • Effectiveness and efficiency of operations, • Reliability of financial reporting, and • Compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Internal controls relate to management’s plans, methods, and procedures used to meet its mission, goals, and objectives. Internal controls include the processes and procedures for planning, organizing, directing, and controlling program operations. They include the systems for measuring, reporting, and monitoring program performance. Relevant Internal Controls We determined the following internal controls were relevant to our audit objectives: • Policies and procedures to ensure the closing process complied with contract requirements. • Controls to ensure closing funds were safeguarded and disbursed only for eligible expenses. We assessed the relevant controls identified above. A significant weakness exists if management controls do not provide reasonable assurance that the process for planning, organizing, directing, and controlling program operations will meet the organization’s objectives. Significant Weaknesses Based on our review, we believe the following item is a significant weakness: • American Title did not have management controls to ensure HUD contract compliance and to safeguard closing funds (finding 1). 9 APPENDIXES Appendix A SCHEDULE OF INELIGIBLE COSTS Recommendation number Ineligible 1/ 1B $2,478 1C $4,380 1/ Ineligible costs are costs charged to a HUD-financed or HUD-insured program or activity that the auditor believes are not allowable by law; contract; or federal, state, or local polices or regulations. 10 Appendix B AUDITEE COMMENTS 11 12 13 14 15
American Title Services, Greenwood Village, Colorado, Did Not Comply with Contract Terms When Closing Sales of HUD-Owned Properties
Published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General on 2006-02-01.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)