Mortgage insurer subsidiary seized by regulators

AP News
Posted: Oct 22, 2011 3:34 PM
Mortgage insurer subsidiary seized by regulators

Insurance regulators in Arizona have seized the main subsidiary of private mortgage insurer PMI Group Inc., which will begin paying claims at just 50 percent.

The seizure follows heavy losses at PMI since the housing market bubble burst. Two months ago, state regulators ordered the Arizona-based subsidiary, PMI Mortgage Insurance Co., to stop selling new policies after it came under scrutiny because it didn't have enough money on hand to meet the requirements of regulations in that state.

A statement on PMI's website says a court order, signed by an Arizona Superior Court judge on Thursday, gives Arizona's Department of Insurance full possession and control of the subsidiary. Beginning Monday, PMI says claims will be paid at just 50 percent, in lieu of a moratorium on claim payments. Meanwhile, PMI said it will "continue to support our customers' ongoing policy servicing needs, and loss mitigation programs."

Private mortgage insurance protects lenders from losses if a homeowner defaults and the lender doesn't recoup costs through foreclosure. The insurance costs the borrower a monthly fee, typically a set percentage of the total mortgage loan. Like other mortgage insurers, PMI has been able to sell profitable policies in recent years, but the gains from those sales hasn't outpaced losses from policies sold before the housing market collapsed. As flagging home prices have strapped borrowers, the company has had to pay more claims.

The company's shares have traded below $1 apiece since late July, closing on Friday at 31 cents apiece. PMI shares topped $50 in 2007. Since then, the Walnut Creek, Calif. company has posted more than $3.5 billion in losses due to claims paid out on foreclosed homes. That includes a loss of nearly $135 million for the second quarter. PMI hasn't yet reported third-quarter results.

PMI's CEO, L. Stephen Smith, told analysts in early August that that company has seen a sharp rise in the number of previously denied claims that banks appealed and were able to get reinstated by producing better documents to back up them up.

Smith said then that his company was working with a financial adviser to search for ways to raise capital.