Gov’t to Lenders: Pay Up for Foreclosure Errors

The nation’s largest banks reached a settlement with federal regulators, agreeing to compensate home owners who were wrongly foreclosed upon and to overhaul their operations.

The settlement also directed financial firms to hire auditors to determine if they improperly foreclosed on home owners in 2009 and 2010.

However, the settlement reached with federal regulators on Wednesday is hardly the end of punishment and investigation into banks’ shoddy lending practices and wrongful foreclosures, officials say. Officials warn fines will be determined later for the lenders and banking companies, which include Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Citigroup.

Wednesday’s settlement with banks was reached with three federal banking regulators: the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve, and the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Banks still face settlement talks — which are believed to be even more stringent — with the 50 state attorneys general, the Treasury and Justice departments, the Federal Trade Commission, and the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This group has called for tougher measures, including detailed document procedures and even guidelines for modifying loans that include reducing the mortgage principal of struggling borrowers.

Banks continue to face investigations and punishments from abusive lending practices that plagued the industry, including probes that have revealed banks approved foreclosure paperwork without proper reviews, court filings that weren’t properly notarized, mortgage documents that weren’t transferred properly, and having inadequate staff to handle the foreclosure process.

Source: “14 Lenders and 2 Servicers to Reimburse Home Owners who Were Incorrectly Foreclosed Upon,” Associated Press (April 13, 2011) and “Mortgage Lenders Settle but Still Face Probe,” MSNBC.com (April 13, 2011)

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