Sunday, January 13, 2013

Banksters Score Another Major Win In Effort To Buy Their Way Out Of Foreclosure Fraud Hot Water; 10 Outfits Agree To Fork Over A Mere $3.3B To Screwed Over Borrowers, Another $5.2B For Purported Deficiency Waiver 'Credits' For Future Short-Selling Underwater Homeowners

The Los Angeles Times reports:

  • A mortgage is a contract. You agree to pay a certain amount of money to the bank each month, and the bank, in turn, agrees to finance your purchase, play fair and not jeopardize your ability to keep a roof over your head.

    Ten big banks said Monday that they'll shell out $8.5 billion to settle federal complaints that they wrongfully foreclosed on hundreds of thousands of homeowners who should have been allowed to stay in their homes.

    They got off cheap. The average compensation for each homeowner who faced foreclosure in 2009 and 2010 will run about $2,000.

    That's a couple thousand bucks for having been deceived and pushed around — and possibly thrown out onto the street — by a bank that was knowingly breaking regulatory procedures in handling distressed properties.

    That's a couple thousand bucks for having your life turned upside-down and dealing with a take-no-prisoners financial system that refused to acknowledge, at least at first, that it was behaving duplicitously.

    Alys Cohen, a staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center, called Monday's settlement "wholly inadequate in light of the scale of the harm."

    By ponying up a few billion dollars, Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank and a half-dozen smaller banks will close the books on a federal investigation into accusations that they mishandled people's paperwork and skipped required steps in the foreclosure process.

    Among the banks' abuses: They routinely assigned employees to approve foreclosures without giving homeowners' documents a thorough going-over. In some cases, according to investigators, they signed foreclosure papers without even reading them.

    Some bank workers admitted signing more than 10,000 foreclosure affidavits a month. That's about four per minute for any bank staffer working a 40-hour week.

    Think of that: As millions of families were grappling with job losses and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, banks were devoting all of 15 seconds to deciding the fate of people's homes.

    And this followed months of requiring homeowners to file reams of documents to make their case for why they should be given just a little leeway on their obligations.
  • Before Monday's settlement, the banks had paid about $1.5 billion to private consultants to help them deal with the mess, officials found, while making little effort to assist mortgage holders.

    The latest settlement requires the banks to spend $3.3 billion to compensate borrowers whose homes were unfairly foreclosed upon, plus $5.2 billion in mortgage assistance to others.

    Citi, for its part, said the bank is "pleased to have the matter resolved." Chase said it was "pleased to have it now behind us," as if everyone can now live happily ever after.

    The banks certainly will. In 2011, the year after the period covered by Monday's settlement, Citigroup pocketed $11.3 billion in profit. JPMorgan Chase saw record profit of $19 billion. Wells Fargo posted almost $16 billion in profit.

    BofA was the poor relation of the family. It earned only $1.4 billion in profit in 2011 as the bank continued dealing with its acquisition of troubled Countrywide Financial.

    These four banks alone accounted for almost $48 billion in annual profit on the heels of subjecting borrowers to some of the most despicable behavior imaginable.

    Now they'll join other banks in collectively paying just $3.3 billion to homeowners they abused, plus an additional $5.2 billion to do what they should have done all along — help customers deal with extraordinary circumstances.

    Separately, BofA agreed to pay more than $10 billion in cash and loan buybacks to mortgage financing giant Fannie Mae to settle Countrywide-related claims.
For the story, see Banks shortchanging consumers in mortgage settlement (Ten big banks say they'll shell out $8.5 billion to settle federal complaints that they wrongfully foreclosed on hundreds of thousands of homeowners).

See also, The Associated Press: US banks try to clean up remaining mortgage mess:
  • [C]onsumer advocates complained that regulators settled for too low a price by letting banks avoid full responsibility for foreclosures that victimized families and fueled an exodus from neighborhoods across the country.

    The settlement ends an independent review of loan files required under a 2011 action by regulators. Bruce Marks, CEO of the advocacy group Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America, noted that ending the review will cut short investigations into the banks' practices.

    "The question of who's to blame — the homeowners or the lenders — if you stop this investigation now, that will always be an open-ended question," Marks said.

    The banks, which include JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, will pay about $3.3 billion to homeowners to end the review of foreclosures.

    The rest of the money — $5.2 billion — will be used to reduce mortgage bills and forgive outstanding principal on home sales that generated less than borrowers owed on their mortgages.
  • The companies involved in the settlement announced Monday also include Citigroup, MetLife Bank, PNC Financial Services, Sovereign, SunTrust, U.S. Bank and Aurora. The 2011 action also included GMAC Mortgage, HSBC Finance Corp. and EMC Mortgage Corp.

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