Contract Inducement Concerns
Financial institutions should not sign servicing contracts that contain provisions or inducements that may adversely affect the institution. Such contract provisions may include extended terms (up to 10 years), significant increases in costs after the first few years, and/or substantial cancellation penalties. In addition, some service contracts improperly offer inducements that allow an institution to retain or increase capital by deferring losses on the disposition of assets or avoiding expense recognition. These inducements may attract institutions wanting to mask capital problems.
Inducements can take several forms including the following examples:
- The service provider purchases certain assets (e.g., computer equipment or foreclosed real estate) at book value (which exceeds market value) or purchases capital stock from the institution.
- The service provider offers cash bonuses to the institution upon completion of the conversion.
- The service provider offers up-front cash to the institution. The provider states that the institution acquires the right to future cost savings or profit enhancements that will accrue to the institution because of greater operational efficiencies. These improvements are usually without measurable benchmarks.
- The institution defers expenses for conversion costs or processing fees under the terms of the contract.
- Low installation and conversion costs in exchange for higher future systems support and maintenance costs.
These inducements may offer a short-term benefit to the institution. However, the provider usually recoups the costs by charging a premium for the processing services. These excessive fees may adversely affect an institution's financial condition over the long-term. Furthermore, institutions should account for such inducements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and regulatory reporting requirements.
Accordingly, when negotiating contracts, an institution should ensure the provider furnishes a level of service that meets the needs of the institution over the life of the contract. The institution must ensure it accounts for contracts in accordance with GAAP. Contracting for excessive servicing fees and/or failing to account properly for such transactions is an unsafe and unsound practice. In entering into service agreements, institutions must ensure accounting under such agreements reflects the substance of the transaction and not merely the form.