They've barely cleaned up the confetti from the Super Bowl parade, and already baseball's spring training is upon us. Here is something non-mortgage related, but a must-see for any baseball fan wanting to see how a baseball is manufactured.

And now, turning to sports-related mortgage news, who is Daniel Carbo? Quicken Loans (#1 online lender) paid off Mr. Carbo's mortgage as part of its "Thanks a Million" contest during halftime at a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball game at Quicken Loans Arena. Apparently Quicken closed its one millionth mortgage in late 2010. Every client who closed a mortgage last year between August - December was automatically entered into a drawing to pay off one client's loan, up to $250,000.

Recently Bank of America and Citi have announced a series of branch closures. At the other end of the "trend," JPMorgan Chase announced it will open 225 branches this year and more than 2,000 over the next 5 years. The bank is seeking to increase its presence in FL, CA, NY and IL. Out on the West Coast, First California Mortgage announced the opening of two new fulfillment centers, in Irvine, CA and Seattle, WA, bringing the total of Regional Fulfillment Centers to 5 including; Northern California, Arizona and Colorado.

In a story that falls under the "it just won't go away" title, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a "wide-ranging subpoena" to Bank of America for all documents and records related to Countrywide's VIP program, the so-called "Friends of Angelo" circle. The Committee has been investigating Countrywide for over two years. A statement read, "Countrywide orchestrated a deliberate and calculated effort to use relationships with people in high places in order to manipulate public policy and further their bottom line to the detriment of the American taxpayers even at the expense of its own lending standards." Anyone servicing Freddie loans should be aware that in preparation for the phased migration of all servicers to the Service Loans application this year, Freddie's Single-Family Seller/Servicer Guide has been updated.

Chase notified correspondents that it will be implementing the changes detailed in Freddie Mac's announcement 2011-2 (Refinance Mortgage Eligibility and Verification of Funds), and also told clients that Chase improved its 10-yr pricing adjustment by .250.

GMAC updated its HomePath product summary guidelines, specifically to include a more detailed description on the different types of financing for the HomePath program.   

(GMAC Bank does not participate in the HomePath Renovation Mortgage Financing Product or the HomePath manufactured housing mortgage product.) The investor also let clients know that the FHA Comprehensive Risk Assessment Worksheet has been updated to apply to FHA refinance as well as purchase transactions, and is required for all manually underwritten loans, including automated underwriting Refer decisions and Approve decisions that have been downgraded to a Refer decision.

Guild Mortgage let brokers know that starting 4/18 it would be adopting the new FHA MIP fees. And also on that date "FHA systems will require mortgagees to: certify at the time of requesting a case number that they have an active application for the borrower and property, and provide the borrower's name and social security number for all new construction (proposed, and existing less than one year old). (FHA systems will automatically cancel any uninsured case number where there has been no activity for 6 months since the last action except for loans where an appraisal update has been entered and/or loans where the UFMIP has been received.)

What is the latest exciting news on compensation developments? Lenders are continuing to research historical production data for their producers, as well as paying attorneys to analyze the rules and regulations. And smaller lenders are waiting for the Top 5 investors to continue to announce their policies, which in turn will be used to formulate their own, especially when required to submit comp plans to their investors.

With that in mind, Wells Fargo's wholesale group sent the word out to "Broker owners" (company owners) saying that the owners should submit their broker owner compensation policies and procedures to Wells Fargo by March 15, 2011. "Broker owners will need to submit your Broker Owner Compensation Policies and Procedures, which should give an overview of your compensation policies and how you implement them. Wells Fargo will not require individual Loan Officer compensation agreements or contracts. Every single broker company must outline their rules and governance and submit their broker owner compensation policies - even if you are a one-person company or a partnership company that compensates in a salary plus distribution structure." Wells will send out an e-mail with a questionnaire, a "request for information letter," which provides a high-level overview of Wells Fargo's compensation policy screening.

Wells stated that, at a minimum, broker owner policies must include all of the following: how the broker owner compensates its individual loan officers who act as loan originators, how the broker owner compensates its producing branch managers, whether the broker owner compensates its individual loan officers differently based on whether the consumer or the lender is paying broker compensation, and record retention guidelines. "Broker owners should outline in their policies how they compensate their loan officers under both the consumer- and lender-paid models. Under current interpretation of the rules, loan officers who originate loans under the consumer-paid model can't receive compensation based on commission - their compensation must be based on a salary or salary plus bonus structure. Therefore, if a loan officer originates loans under both the consumer and lender-paid models, then their compensation can only be based on salary or salary plus bonus structure."

GMAC Bank Correspondent Funding sent out compensation word that it will provide its clients with two compensation options:  lender paid compensation or consumer paid compensation. The compensation option must be selected before the loan application is submitted to GMACB. Under its Lender Paid Compensation arrangement, "Compensation is based on established upfront terms negotiated between the broker client and GMACB that will remain in effect for a quarterly period. The compensation will be based on a set percentage of the loan amount and cannot vary from one transaction to another. GMACB will pay compensation directly to the broker client. The quarterly compensation amount will be used for all loans sent to GMACB where lender paid compensation is selected and will be set-up prior to registering loans. The consumer may pay discount points to reduce the interest rate. The consumer may pay bona fide third party costs and GMACB fees by paying cash at closing, or by financing them through the loan principal or interest rate. The consumer cannot pay any compensation to the broker client or any loan originator. The broker client/loan originator cannot reduce the lender paid compensation amount by offering concessions or paying for tolerance violations. The broker client must establish compensation agreements with its loan officers that comply with the Final Rule."

For GMAC's Consumer Paid Compensation, "The broker will negotiate compensation directly with the consumer. The consumer may pay bona fide third party costs and GMACB fees by paying cash at closing, or by financing them through the loan principal or interest rate. Premium pricing cannot be used to compensate the broker client/loan originator. The consumer may pay discount points to reduce the interest rate. The consumer must pay compensation to the broker client from their own funds or from the principal proceeds of the new loan. No other person (other than the borrower) may provide any compensation to a loan originator, directly or indirectly, in connection with the loan transaction. The broker client must establish compensation agreements with its loan officers that comply with the Final Rule. Compensation to the broker client can vary from one transaction to another.  However, compensation from the broker client to its loan officers for any particular transaction may be comprised only of a salary or hourly wage.  Other aggregate bonus related compensation from the broker client to its loan officers cannot be based on prohibited terms and conditions."

Lastly, GMAC reminded us that "Loan originators must provide the consumer with loan options from a significant number of the creditors with which the loan originator regularly does business. For each type of transaction (i.e., fixed rate, ARM), in which the consumer expressed an interest, the loan options presented must include: The loan with the lowest interest rate, the loan with lowest origination points or fees and discount points, and the loan with the lowest interest rate without certain features (prepayment penalty, IO payments, etc.). "Loan originators must obtain options from at least three creditors, unless the loan originator regularly does business with fewer than three creditors."

Pricing and underwriting engines such as LoanSifter are also in full preparation mode for these comp plans. For example, LoanSifter's eOriginations tool "has been enhanced to be compliant with these new rules" specifically to give quotes and show specific options to the borrower meeting "safe harbor" requirements.

MBS prices finished Wednesday about where they began - worse about .125 - on slightly above normal volumes. 10-yr yields hit a low yield during the day of 3.58% on some "Iranian warships were going through the Suez Canal to Syria" news caused a flight to quality. But here in the US, continued signs of economic strength (Housing Starts, higher than expected Core PPI, and upwardly revised FOMC outlook) nudged rates higher, and the 10-yr closed at 3.62%. The release of the FOMC Minutes was not a huge event, and basically showed no changes to the employment or inflation picture. And a dissection of the Housing Starts number showed that starts rose in the Northeast, Midwest and South, but declined in the West, and the NAHB Housing Market Index held steady.

Today closes out this week's economic news. The CPI (Consumer Price Index) was +.4%, with the core rate (for no one who eats or travels) up .2%. Jobless Claims were up 25,000 from 385k to 410k. Later this morning we'll have Leading Economic Indicators (expected +.2%) and a Philly Fed number, as well as next week's government auction totals. So far the 10-yr.'s yield is down nicely to 3.58% and MBS prices are better by .125-.250.

Last night I was sitting on the sofa watching TV when I heard my wife's voice from the kitchen.
"What would you like for dinner my Love - chicken, beef, or fish?"
I said, "Thank you, I'll have chicken."
She replied "You're having leftover soup.  I was talking to the cat."