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Warren, Geithner push to simplify mortgage paperwork

Say they’ll move fast to implement new financial law

By Martin Crutsinger
Associated Press / September 22, 2010

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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is promising to move quickly to simplify the paperwork consumers receive when taking out a mortgage.

Obama adviser Elizabeth Warren and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said yesterday that the administration was committed to implementing, as soon as possible, several consumer protections that are part of the financial system overhaul that Congress passed in the summer.

Geithner and Warren made the comments as part of a forum they held at the Treasury Department with a number of consumer advocacy groups, financial literacy counselors, and representatives of the mortgage industry to receive input on ways to simplify mortgage disclosure forms.

“Whenever possible, we are committed to expediting completion of the law’s requirements ahead of statutory deadlines,’’ Geithner said. “Moving quickly to improve mortgage disclosures is one in a series of concrete steps we’re taking.’’

One of the requirements of the Dodd-Frank law is to combine and simplify two overlapping mortgage disclosure forms, one required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the other by the Federal Reserve.

Despite a decade of efforts, the government has yet to combine the two forms.

Warren said that streamlining the disclosure process would give families better tools to make better choices when choosing financial products.

“This is particularly true in the mortgage market, where borrowers receive stacks of incomprehensible paperwork when they’re looking for a loan,’’ she said. “Fine print obscures the cost of credit and makes it impossible for families to compare products.’’

The Treasury forum was the first event Warren has held since being selected by President Obama last Friday to serve as the overseer of the effort to set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by the new law.

Facing the prospect of a likely Senate filibuster, Obama decided against nominating Warren, a Harvard law professor, to head the new agency. Instead, he chose to name her as a special adviser to the White House and to the Treasury in charge of leading the effort to set up the new bureau. In that job, she will not require Senate confirmation.

In an appearance yesterday on CBS’s “The Early Show,’’ Warren said that she would not back down in the face of business resistance to her appointment.

Warren said that Obama told her not to worry about job titles, but to “start pushing back’’ against companies fighting new regulations aimed at protecting borrowers.

She said, “That’s exactly what I intend to do, and I intend to do it as hard as I can.’’