First Tennessee Bank N.A. has agreed to pay the United States $212.5 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly originating and underwriting mortgage loans insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that did not meet applicable requirements, the Justice Department announced today. First Tennessee is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee.
“First Tennessee’s reckless underwriting has resulted in significant losses of federal funds and was precisely the type of conduct that caused the financial crisis and housing market downturn,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We will continue to hold accountable lenders who put profits before both their legal obligations and their customers, and restore wrongfully claimed funds to FHA and the treasury.”
Between January 2006 and October 2008, First Tennessee, through its subsidiary First Horizon Home Loans Corporation (First Horizon), participated in the FHA insurance program as a Direct Endorsement Lender (DEL). As a DEL, First Tennessee had the authority to originate, underwrite and endorse mortgages for FHA insurance. If a DEL such as First Tennessee approves a mortgage loan for FHA insurance and the loan later defaults, the holder of the loan may submit an insurance claim to HUD, FHA’s parent agency, for the losses resulting from the defaulted loan. Under the DEL program, neither the FHA nor HUD reviews a loan before it is endorsed for FHA insurance. DELs such as First Tennessee are therefore required to follow program rules designed to ensure that they are properly underwriting and certifying mortgages for FHA insurance, to maintain a quality control program that can prevent and correct deficiencies in their underwriting practices and to self-report any deficient loans identified by their quality control program. In August 2008, First Tennessee sold First Horizon to MetLife Bank N.A. (MetLife), a wholly-owned subsidiary of MetLife Inc., which thereafter originated FHA-insured mortgages under the MetLife name. In February 2015, MetLife agreed to pay $123.5 million to resolve its False Claims Act liability arising from its FHA originations after it acquired First Horizon from First Tennessee.
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