The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), an arm of the Treasury which generally tracks drug money and terrorist funding has now apparently added Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) fraud to their efforts.
In a recent Miami Herald article titled, “Crooks Misusing Foreign Trade,” James H. Freis, director of (FinCEN), said, “FinCEN has seen a big problem recently with home equity conversion mortgages....regulators are also seeing seniors duped into buying financial products not in their best interest as an outright theft of proceeds from reverse mortgage proceeds.”
Although I applaud FinCEN, the HUD Inspector General and all other law enforcement agencies who try and protect us from predatory practices, I am afraid statements such as these are not qualified, yet have some how still become the norm rather that the exception.
Former FHA Commissioner Brian Montgomery commented by saying, “such statements that go without a challenge are downright destructive to the reverse mortgage industry.”
I can’t agree more. Qualifying these statements is not the sole responsibility of MBA and or NRMLA. I can think of others who claim to have the best interest of our seniors at heart who should take up a position to support law enforcement’s effort to protect seniors but who should also profess the benefits of the reverse mortgage program and the potential positive impact on our seniors.
To that point where is AARP?
Although they did show positive support for the program back in 2007, there hasn't been much mentioned of it since. Do they not believe that the future generation of seniors will need a mechanism such as the reverse mortgage to maintain some semblance of a quality of life? And what about the leadership in our cities; have they not thought about the necessity of the reverse mortgage for their aging citizens? Almost every city in America is struggling with transitional housing for its seniors. Most do not have the resources to fund such requirements. Would it, therefore, not make sense to support a program that provided those seniors with the wherewithal to stay in their homes and provide for themselves?
And then there's congress. I find it incomprehensible that there isn’t a champion of this program on the Hill. Why is it that the only rhetoric coming from Washington regarding this unique program is in the form of “victims and villains”? If congress only comments on why something can’t work, is there hope for them to ever support alternatives to our aging and bankrupt entitlement system?
So why is there so little public support for the reverse mortgage program, especially if the majority of the information and data collected indicates that this program makes sense and a majority of satisfied seniors seem to exist?
Maybe it’s because the industry is so fragmented and the level of support it would require is impossible to achieve without the coordination and collaboration of all parties. But is it not time for all interested parties to put aside the need to be ‘front and center’ and take a position alongside one another? Joined in supporting a viable complement to current retirement vehicles such as pension programs, social security payments and individual retirement savings?
The reverse mortgage program is an ingenious mechanism that we can’t afford to squander. This is an opportunity to guarantee quality of life for our seniors of tomorrow.