for consumers: Warning Issued About Refinance Scams

With the Federal Reserve expected to raise interest rates before the end of the year, many homeowners are looking to refinance before the rates go up.

Consumer advocates warn that con artists are anticipating the jump, too.

The Better Business Bureau has received reports of emails, phone calls and flyers from companies offering great deals on refinancing, with promises of guaranteed interest rates. The companies tempt homeowners with news that they may qualify for a special program, and the potential to save hundreds of dollars each month on mortgage payments.

Theres one big catch, the BBB warns. The company needs you to pay an upfront fee in order to lock in your rate, sometimes as much as thousands of dollars. Once you hand over the payment, the company vanishes with your money.

Always be wary of upfront fees to guarantee a new, lower rate, the BBB advises.

Also be skeptical of any company that claims it is part of a government program. Scam artists try to increase their credibility by aligning themselves with official or trustworthy institutions.

Do your research and contact the government or your loan servicer first, according to the BBB.

Likewise, take the time to do your research — high-pressure sales tactics encouraging you to act immediately with phrases like act fast or limited time offer are often a red flag indicating a possible scam.

And never heed advice to stop paying your mortgage lender, as it can damage your credit rating.

Free financial planning event set for Saturday

Free financial planning advice will be available to residents of the Milwaukee area Saturday.

The event, known as Milwaukee Financial Planning Day, will be held from 10 am until 5 pm Saturday at Destiny Youth Plaza, 7210 North 76th Street in Milwaukee.

The event was originally scheduled to be held at Darryl Lynn Hines Academy, located at 7151 N. 86th St. in Milwaukee, but has been moved because of a large funeral planned for Saturday at that location.

The event will feature certified financial planning professionals volunteering their time to meet one-on-one with people to answer questions on various issues, such as getting out of debt, retirement planning, mortgages and foreclosures, and income taxes.

The event, which is also expected to feature classroom-style educational workshops, is being organized by the City of Milwaukee and the Financial Planning Association of Southern Wisconsin.

Free registration for the event is available online here, or by calling toll free at (877) 861-7826. Organizers said walk-ins are also welcome.

JPMorgan Chase to Convert Home Equity Loans to Black Knight Financial Services …

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Oct. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire/ –Black Knight Financial Services, Inc. (NYSE: BKFS), a leading provider of integrated technology, data and analytics to the mortgage and real estate industries, announced today that JPMorgan Chase, a leading global financial services firm, will add home equity loans to MSP, Black Knights leading-edge servicing system, over the next year. Additionally, JPMorgan Chase signed a long-term extension for MSP.

MSP is a comprehensive servicing platform currently being used by JPMorgan Chase to help manage the servicing of mortgage loans, which involves loan boarding, payment processing, escrow administration, default management and more. MSPs innovative technology is also used to reduce JPMorgan Chases total cost of servicing. MSP was recently recognized as a Best-in-Class solution in CEB TowerGroup analysts Loan Servicing Systems Technology Analysis report published in February 2015.

We are excited to expand our long-time partnership with JPMorgan Chase and provide the technology to centralize its portfolios on a single platform, said Joe Nackashi, Black Knights CIO and president of its Servicing Technologies division. MSPs end-to-end capabilities, supported by Black Knights default technology and data and analytics solutions, will be key to continue JPMorgan Chases strategic growth efforts.

About Black Knight Financial Services, Inc.
Black Knight Financial Services, Inc. (NYSE: BKFS), a Fidelity National Financial (NYSE: FNF) company, is the mortgage and finance industries leading provider of integrated technology, data and analytics solutions that facilitate and automate many of the business processes across the mortgage lifecycle.

Black Knight Financial Services is committed to being the premier business partnerthat lenders and servicers rely on to achieve their strategic goals, realize greater success and better serve their customers by delivering best-in-class technology, services and insight with a relentless commitment to excellence, innovation, integrity and leadership. For more information on Black Knight Financial Services, please visit

About JPMorgan Chase amp; Co.
JPMorgan Chase amp; Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.4 trillion and operations worldwide. The Firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase amp; Co. serves millions of consumers in the United States and many of the worlds most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its JP Morgan and Chase brands. Information about JPMorgan Chase amp; Co. is available at

About CEB
CEB, the leading member-based advisory company, equips more than 10,000 organizations around the globe with insights, tools and actionable solutions to transform enterprise performance. By combining advanced research and analytics with best practices from member companies, CEB helps leaders realize outsized returns by more effectively managing talent, information, customers and risk. Member companies include 90% of the Fortune 500, nearly 75% of the Dow Jones Asian Titans, and more than 85% of the FTSE 100. More

Technology Assessment Disclaimer
CEB does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in our CEB TowerGroup publications and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors rated best in class. CEB TowerGroup research publications consist of the opinions of CEB TowerGroups analysts and should not be construed as statements of fact. CEB disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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SOURCE Black Knight Financial Services, Inc.


Six ways to ensure retirement income

4. Annuity

If you need the type of guaranteed income assurance that retirement accounts and investment portfolios cannot provide, then you need an annuity. Annuities guarantee a monthly or annual payout for as long as youre alive. There are two types of annuities: fixed income and variable income. With fixed annuities, the money you invest today is guaranteed a predefined payout. Variable annuity payouts are based on the performance of your investment (if gains are realized, payouts will be higher). Payouts can begin at whatever age you choose, and continue for the rest of your life, or for a predetermined term.

5. Reverse Mortgage

A reverse mortgage is a type of home equity loan which pays out an annuity-like cash stream based on your homes accumulated equity. Typically, reverse mortgages are reserved for borrowers age 62 or older. The money borrowed can be paid out as one lump sum payment, or issued in installments for the life of the loan. But reverse mortgages are known for their high fees and arent always a good deal, especially if you wish to retain or pass-on ownership of your home.

6. Longevity Insurance

Longevity insurance is an insurance contract that guarantees the money invested today will generate payments in retirement. As with other forms of guaranteed income, the longer you wait to start taking payments, the higher annual payouts will be. These products allow investors to make a lump sum initial investment (or smaller amounts over time) in order to receive guaranteed payments later. For example, if a woman aged 45 invested $50,000 today, she could start taking payments at 65 and receive roughly $7,650 in annual income for the rest of her life.

Of course, the best approach to retirement income is generally asset diversification. The more income streams you can draw on, the less likely youll be to ever run out.

Dart’s Targeting of Credit Cards to Bring Down Website Violates the First …

When a law enforcement official threatens punitive action and reputational damage against a credit card company, with the goal of seeing a website starved for funds and forced to shut down, that official has violated the First Amendment.  This is the message that CDT, EFF, and the Association of Alternative Newsmedia sent to the Seventh Circuit last week in our amicus brief in Backpage v. Dart.

The backstory of this case is compelling: For years, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has waged a campaign against online classified ad site (and before it, in the unsuccessful litigation Dart v. Craigslist), seeking to hold it liable for sex trafficking and prostitution crimes committed by some of the people who post ads on the site. Of course, it’s appropriate for law enforcement officials to pursue prosecution of the pimps and johns who engage in trafficking. But website operators are shielded from legal liability for content that is posted by third parties, thanks to Section 230.  Several states have tried to pass laws that would create new state-level criminal liability for hosting advertisements for unlawful services, but each of these has been struck down for violating both Section 230’s state-law preemption clause and the First Amendment.

With prosecution off the table, this summer Sheriff Dart turned to the bully pulpit in his continued efforts to see taken off the web.  In late June, Sheriff Dart sent letters addressed to the CEOs, Board of Directors, and top institutional investors of Visa and MasterCard, Backpage’s primary financial services providers.  These letters demanded that the card companies “cease and desist” from their business relations with the site and implied that the they could face civil or criminal liability for continuing to process payments for ads linked to unlawful activity.  The letters invoked the reputational damage that the credit card companies would face if they continued to provide service to, and Sheriff Dart followed up these missives with phone calls and emails that promised to single out the card companies in press conferences if they did not cooperate.  Within 48 hours, both MasterCard and Visa had terminated Backpage’s accounts.

Free expression online is jeopardized when intermediaries are vulnerable to government threats and coercion

CDT and our co-amici filed in this case because its implications go far beyond the particular burden of Sheriff Dart’s campaign to starve off of the Internet.  Everyone who uses the Internet to share their thoughts, ideas, and opinions depends on a series of technological intermediaries to transmit, host, and publish their speech.  These include everything from Internet service providers and domain name registrars to cloud service providers and website operators.  Under US law, Section 230 shields these intermediaries from the threat of legal liability for the third-party content that they host and transmit – a cornerstone legal protection for free speech online.

The ability of end-users to express themselves online depends not only on their access to technological intermediaries, but also on those entities’ ability to access the electronic payments system.

The ability of end-users to express themselves and to seek out information online depends not only on their access to technological intermediaries, but also on those entities’ ability to access the electronic payments system.  Website operators use financial services such as credit cards to buy domain names and rent server space for their speech, to purchase Internet access services, and to pay their staff.  Thus, financial service providers function as “financial intermediaries” that facilitate the exchange of funds between speakers (including website operators and users) and providers of technical infrastructure.

A website operator whose bank or credit card account is cut off loses the ability to complete those transactions that are necessary to keep his or her site online.  An operator who is cut off from financial services also loses the ability to receive payments from ad networks and direct advertisers for hosting advertising on his or her site.  This is a particularly important consideration given the wealth of online services and hosts of third-party content that are provided at no direct cost to users and depend on revenue from advertising.

Intermediaries can be vulnerable pressure points for governmental actors who seek to censor content and silence speakers online.  In our brief, we provide the court with a number of examples of informal government censorship exerted through pressuring technical intermediaries, including the California Secretary of State’s threatening letters to vote-swapping websites before the 2000 election and the campaign by state Attorneys General that pressured Craigslist into shutting down its “adult services” section in 2010.

We also discuss the particular risk posed by threats of legal reprisal made to players in the financial services system.  Officials who disagree with the opinions and information expressed on a website, or whose true target is the unlawful conduct of some of the website’s users, may find a pliant pressure point in banks, credit card networks, and third-party payment processors that facilitate financial transactions for the site or service.  Threatening financial intermediaries with legal action and reputational injury can lead these entities to terminate their services to a website operator, cutting off the operator’s access to the financial system in order to remove it from the web – as we saw Senator Joseph Lieberman do with Wikileaks in 2012.

Government officials can’t mix threats with “advocacy”

Following the credit card companies’ termination of its accounts, sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Sheriff Dart, to compel him to halt his campaign to defund the website.  While the lower court granted the temporary order, it declined to issue a preliminary injunction, arguing that Sheriff Dart had an independent First Amendment interest in his “advocacy” on a point of public concern, which he had interwoven with his explicit and implicit threats against Visa and MasterCard.

By denying an injunction against Sheriff Dart, the lower court has sanctioned extralegal government tactics to suppress an entire platform.

This rationale by the lower court risks insulating coercive government action in the cloak of the First Amendment.  While government officials certainly retain a First Amendment right to express their opinion as private individuals, when they speak in their official capacity or pursuant to their official duties, they are acting as representatives of the government, not as private citizens.  And in cases where an official conveys his opinion to the same recipients on the same topic in the same communication in which he also issues an implied or explicit threat of government sanction, such “opinion,” for all practical purposes, becomes indistinguishable from the threat.

By denying an injunction against Sheriff Dart, the lower court has sanctioned extralegal government tactics to suppress an entire platform dedicated to the exchange of information and ideas.  This turns the First Amendment on its head and deprives entities such as of due process of law.  Left unchecked, such government actions represent a serious threat to the flow of information and the availability of forums for speech in the digital age.

If web-based platforms and traditional media cannot challenge government-led blockades against disfavored speech, would-be censors will turn increasingly to the Internet’s technological and financial underpinnings to drive whole platforms from the Internet.  Online intermediaries will face greater obstacles in hosting unpopular or commercially risky viewpoints, and all intermediaries–“Internet-based” or otherwise–will be less likely defend the public’s interest in a diversity of viewpoints and forums for speech.  CDT urges the Seventh Circuit to demonstrate that the First Amendment still protects speakers against censorship via government coercion by granting a preliminary injunction against Sheriff Dart.

3 ETFs to Trade the Volatility in Housing and Banking

To trade the housing sector, investors should use the iShares US Home Construction ETF (ITB) . It has 41 components and is 63.5% weighted to homebuilder stocks.

Must Read: Energy Capitulation Will Hit in 6 to 12 Months — Intervale Capitals Cherington

Community banks provide community developers and homebuilders funding via construction and development loans. The First Trust Nasdaq ABA Community Bank Index Fund (QABA) has 139 publicly traded community banks as components. These banks are among the 354 components — down from 359 a month ago — of the ABA Community Bank Nasdaq Index. Before the financial crisis, the number of community banks in this index was limited to 500, and there was a waiting list to join.

Regional banks are in business to provide mortgage loans and home equity lines of credit. The iShares US Regional Banks ETF (IAT) has 57 components and does not include the four too big to fail money center banks. These institutions have been reluctant to lend, given low interest rates and tougher regulatory guidelines.

Before profiling the weekly charts for these three ETFs lets look at the Case-Shiller home price index and new home sales.

The Case-Shiller 20-City Composite for August shows that home prices rose by 5.1% year over year and up 0.1% sequentially. From the peak in mid-2006, the index is down about 12% and is up 36% since the low in March 2012. This is a re-inflating housing bubble.

The index is at 182.47, up from 181.90 in July. This means that a home costs 82.5% more than it did in December 2000, as the median household incomein the US peaked in 1999 and ended 2014 down 7.2% since then.

Debt Maturities: The Refinance Risk That’s Not Looking Too Risky

The rate of maturing loans is certainly accelerating. About $121.0 billion in commercial and multifamily mortgages held by non-bank lenders and investors will likely mature in 2015, a 32 percent increase from the $91.7 billion that matured in 2014, according to the MBA maturity volumes report.

Maturities by loan type are varied. Of loans held in CMBS, CDOs or other ABS-held mortgages, $73.0 billion will likely mature this year. Life insurance companies may need to refinance about $19.4 billion of their outstanding balances; credit companies and other investors will likely see $17.1 billion mature by years end; and $11.5 billion worth of multifamily mortgages held or insured by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or FHA/Ginnie Mae may be due to mature in 2015. The MBA report is based on its own analysis of $1.54 trillion of outstanding commercial real estate mortgages, as well as figures supplied by the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

One area of concern is that many of the loans coming due were originally from sources that may not be able to refinance them, either fully or at all. If CMBS capital isnt sufficient for certain dealsand underwriting terms have certainly tightened since the bubble burstalternative sources will have to be relied on.

Another worrisome factor involves property valuations. According to US Capital Trends, an analysis by Real Capital Analytics (RCA), a bit more than one-third of all CMBS loans that are due to mature in the 2016-2017 period will require either additional capital to be put into the deal or will be worth less than the original loan. But RCA also concludes that we wont see massive defaults and foreclosures because alternate sources of funds are there.

I agree with this. The securitization industry is rebounding to modest health, and abundant capital is available from more sources than ever. The total volume of unspent committed capital for investments from private real estate fundscalled dry powder in the industrynow totals more than $250 billion, 37 percent higher than at the end of 2014, according to Preqins 2015 Global Private Debt Report. That is likely enough money from private funds to address the loan issues.

And there are more options. Yes, traditional banks are still pretty much on the sidelines, but pension funds and insurance companies are active. And opportunities exist for mezzanine financing and direct lending from insurers or wealthy individuals. Meanwhile the number of mortgage REITS originating commercial mortgages is increasing.

Then theres vast capital from overseas, largely available in government treasures (AKA sovereign wealth funds). Money from China and South Korea, supplemented by pension fund capital from Japan, is expected to continue to seek real estate deals in the US, according to Global Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2015, published jointly by PwC and the Urban Land Institute.

Sure, there are bad loans out there or redevelopments gone bad, and theyll be hurting. And a rise in interest rates could be painful to some. If rates increase by150 basis points, up to 20 percent of the maturing debt may face refinancing challenges, according to analytics company Trepp.

But the concern over debt maturity and refinancing risk that gave folks the willies in the years after the financial crisis is misplaced today. The industry is healthy, and getting healthier. Readily available financingand refinancingis one reason why.

R. Byron Carlock Jr. is a principal and the national real estate practice leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He can be reached at

Are BofA’s 1 Million New Credit Cards a Good Omen?

The winning ticket for bank earnings in the next three months– and quite possibly future quarters — is probablyin your wallet right now.

While investment banking and mortgage lending were a drag on earnings in the third quarter, some banks saw their credit card businesses perform well as they addedclients, tapped retailer partnerships, and had fewer customers unable to pay their bills.

We issued another 1.3 million credit cards this quarter and active accounts continue to grow, Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America (BAC – Get Report) said on an earnings calllast week. The good news is we are doing it through the lowest cost possible through our core franchise, much lower than other means of growth.