Friday, April 15, 2011

Banksters Score Pass In Preliminary Settlement w/ Bank Regulators; Still Face F'closure Risk As Deal Not Expected To Affect Ongoing Probe By State AGs

The Washington Post reports:
  • Three federal agencies announced agreements with the nation’s largest mortgage servicers Wednesday that aim to stem shoddy foreclosure practices. But the plans do not immediately impose financial penalties on the companies or force them to reduce the mortgage debt for troubled borrowers.
  • The deals require the mortgage servicers to identify and compensate borrowers who suffered financial harm, but the details have not yet been decided.


  • Some lawmakers and consumer groups said the enforcement actions are weak and won’t fix the problems that surfaced last fall. By then, news reports and lawsuits showed that mortgage servicers were using fake documents, forged signatures and other shortcuts to quickly evict families from foreclosed houses. The revelations prompted many of the nation’s largest lenders to temporarily halt foreclosures and sort through the mess.
  • The three regulators that reached the deal Wednesday — the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve and the soon-defunct Office of Thrift Supervision — have at times been cast by those critics as being too friendly to the industry.
  • State attorneys general, the Justice Department and several federal agencies are trying to negotiate a separate settlement with the banks, which sources say might force the companies to pay at least $20 billion in fines. That money would then be used to slash the mortgage debt of borrowers who owe more than their houses are worth.
  • The OCC said its deal would not undermine the broader settlement being negotiated by the attorneys general. “I would not only hope that they would dovetail, but I think the two really need to mesh,” said John Walsh, acting comptroller of the currency.


  • The actions taken by the three agencies are based on the findings of an interagency review last year that discovered “significant problems” from a sampling of foreclosure actions by those companies.
  • The companies violated federal and state laws, mishandled foreclosure documents and failed to properly oversee the foreclosure attorneys working on their behalf, the review concluded, contradicting past claims by the industry.
  • Consumer advocates and some lawmakers reacted negatively. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said the enforcement actions are “disappointing – but not surprising – given the history of our nation’s banking regulators” who have been accused of being too soft on the institutions they oversee.

For the story, see Regulators, mortgage servicers agree on reforms.

In a related story, see Reuters: Analysis: U.S. banks still face big foreclosure risks (U.S. banks still face severe consequences from allegations of pervasive mishandling of home foreclosures, despite reaching a relatively mild settlement with the bank regulators).