In November, the House Financial Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., approved legislation that would require states to license all mortgage professionals and mandate criminal background checks, exams and a ban on felons. It's now part of a larger housing bill under consideration in Congress.
Saxon sent a letter to Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, a Florida Republican on the committee. He expressed support for the idea of licensing and minimum standards but insisted that states should have the final say on who gets licensed.
''The Office would oppose any attempt to preempt the ability of states to make licensing determinations,'' the letter reads. ''States have always been at the forefront of consumer protection and are in the best position to determine who should be granted a license to conduct business in their state and under which conditions.''
Saxon told The Miami Herald last week that he was well aware of the state brokers' long-standing support of the changes. But he repeated his assertion that his office never pushed for legislation because it would never pass: ''If no likelihood to get it passed, no point in doing it.''
When asked who opposed the idea, he could not recall. ''I don't have any specific names,'' he said.
Several key legislators contacted by The Miami Herald, however, said they don't remember the OFR raising the issue.
State Sen. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, who chaired the Banking and Insurance Committee for the past two years -- it's the panel that considers legislation on the mortgage industry -- said the issue never came up in committee discussions. He added that he didn't know loan originators are not licensed. ''If you do what a mortgage broker does, you should have a license,'' Posey said.
State Rep. Dan Gelber also said he was unaware of any issues raised by the OFR on the licensing of loan originators. ''There should have been a debate on this in the Legislature,'' said Gelber, D-Miami Beach, the House minority leader. ''Obviously, disqualifying felons from originating home loans makes sense.''
Falk said he launched his campaign for licensing in 2002 because he noticed that mortgage fraud was on the rise at the same time the industry was undergoing its largest expansion.
''We saw it rear its ugly head in the late 1990s and then continue,'' he said. ''We have been pushing for six years.''