Monday, February 20, 2012


Recently a settlement between 49 States and the Federal Government against 5 major banks over illegal foreclosure procedures was reached and here is the summary from the CDPE website.

Philip A. Lehman
Assistant Attorney General
Consumer Protection Division
North Carolina Department of Justice

The settlement between the state attorneys general and the five leading
bank mortgage servicers will result in approximately $25 billion dollars in
monetary sanctions and relief. The settlement represents the largest financial
recovery obtained by the attorneys general except for the 1998 Master Tobacco
Settlement. The accord will enable hundreds of thousands of distressed
homeowners to stay in their homes through enhanced loan modifications. It
will also fund payments to victims of unfair foreclosure practices and provide
support for housing counseling and state-level foreclosure prevention programs.
In addition to the monetary allocations, the settlement will require
comprehensive reforms of mortgage loan servicing. The mandated standards
will cover all aspects of mortgage servicing, from consumer response to
foreclosure documentation. To ensure that the banks meet the new standards,
the settlement will be recorded and enforceable as a court judgment.
Compliance will be overseen by an independent monitor who will report to the
attorneys general and the court.
The settlement follows ten months of intensive negotiations between the five
banks and a coalition of state attorneys general and federal agencies, including
the Departments of Justice, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development. The
investigation began in October 2010 following revelations of widespread use
of “robo-signed” affidavits in foreclosure proceedings across the country. State
attorneys general formed a working group to investigate the problem and to
confront the banks about the allegations. The major mortgage servicing banks
soon acknowledged that individuals had been signing thousands of foreclosure
affidavits without reviewing the validity or accuracy of the sworn statements.
Several national banks then agreed to stop their foreclosure filings and sales
until corrective action could be taken.
While the robo-signing issue received the most attention, other servicer-related
problems were identified, including deceptive practices in the offering of loan
modifications (for example, telling consumers that a loan modification was
imminent while simultaneously foreclosing). The performance failures resulted
in more than just poor customer service. Unnecessary foreclosures occurred due
to failure to process homeowners’ requests for modified payment plans. And
where foreclosures should have been concluded, shoddy documentation led to
protracted delays. This misconduct threatened the integrity of the legal system
and had a negative impact on communities and the overall housing market.
All 50 state attorneys general determined that the compliance and performance
failures prevalent in mortgage servicing were a high priority law enforcement
and consumer protection matter. A bipartisan Negotiating Committee, made up
of eight attorneys general led the settlement negotiations. The Committee had
extensive discussions with a wide variety of stakeholders, including investor
groups, state banking examiners, bankruptcy attorneys, consumer groups and
legal aid attorneys. The assistance and cooperation of state banking regulators and the Conference
of State Banking Supervisors was particularly helpful in developing expertise. The attorneys
general also partnered with federal authorities in order to benefit from their expertise and
investigations. A working relationship with federal agencies was particularly important because
national banks assert that state officials have no authority to investigate their banking practices.
The negotiations focused on robo-signing and mortgage servicing misconduct. The resulting
settlement addresses the primary goals of the attorneys general: to provide immediate relief to
enable struggling homeowners to avoid foreclosure; to bring badly needed reform to the mortgage
servicing industry; to ensure that foreclosures are lawfully conducted; and to penalize the banks
for robo-signing misconduct. The settlement imposes monetary sanctions on the banks while
providing immediate and continuing relief to homeowners. Full litigation of the states’ claims
would likely have taken years, at a time when the foreclosure crisis requires immediate relief for
homeowners. And adjudication of state-based robo-signing claims may have led to civil penalties
but could not have yielded the amount and scope of the relief obtained in this settlement.
The settlement was not intended to address issues related to mortgage loan securitization or the
concerns of investors. The settlement does not release securitization claims, so private parties
and government officials are free to pursue those claims. Nor does the settlement provide any
immunity or release for criminal conduct.
I. Relief for Struggling Homeowners
The settlement requires the five banks to allocate a total of $17 billion in assistance to borrowers
who have the intent and ability to stay in their homes while making reasonable payments on their
mortgage loans. At least 60 percent of the $17 billion must be allocated to reduce the principal
balance of home loans for borrowers who are in default or at risk of default on their loan payments.
Many homeowners, particularly in states like Florida, Arizona, Nevada and California, have
negative equity in their homes and have no realistic ability of refinancing or selling their homes, or
to build equity. Principal reductions will also yield lower payments and will give homeowners a
fair opportunity to preserve their homes.
In addition to principal reductions, the banks must allocate funds, approximately $5.2 billion, for
other forms of homeowner assistance. These options include the facilitation of short sales which
allow houses to be bought and sold when the mortgage balance exceeds the value of the property.
Another program is unemployed payment forbearance, which will defer payments for homeowners
who are between jobs. Other options for funding include relocation assistance for homeowners
facing foreclosure, waiving of deficiency balances, and funding for remediation of blighted
II. Refinancing of Underwater Homes
To assist homeowners who are not delinquent on their payments but cannot refinance to lower
rates because of negative equity, the banks must offer refinance programs totaling at least $3
billion. The banks will be required to notify eligible homeowners of the availability of these
programs. To be eligible, a borrower must be current on mortgage payments, have a loan to value
ratio in excess of 100%, and must have a current interest rate in excess of 5.25%. The refinanced
rate must reduce monthly payments by at least $100.
III. Mortgage Servicing Reforms
A major component of the settlement is the comprehensive reform of mortgage servicing
practices. The new standards will prevent mortgage servicers from engaging in robo-signing and
other improper foreclosure practices. The standards will require banks to offer loss mitigation
alternatives to borrowers before pursuing foreclosure. They also increase the transparency of the
loss mitigation process, impose time lines to respond to borrowers, and restrict the unfair practice
of “dual tracking,” where foreclosure is initiated despite the borrower’s engagement in a loss
mitigation process.
Specific new servicing standards include:
• Information in foreclosure affidavits must be personally reviewed and based on competent
• Holders of loans and their legal standing to foreclose must be documented and disclosed to
• Borrowers must be sent a pre-foreclosure notice that will include a summary of loss
mitigation options offered, an account summary, description of facts supporting lender’s right
to foreclose, and a notice that the borrower may request a copy of the loan note and the
identity of the investor holding the loan.
• Borrowers must be thoroughly evaluated for all available loss mitigation options before
foreclosure referral, and banks must act on loss mitigation applications before referring loans
to foreclosure; i.e. “dual tracking” will be restricted.
• Denials of loss mitigation relief must be automatically reviewed, with a right to appeal for
• Banks must implement procedures to ensure accuracy of accounts and default fees, including
regular audits, detailed monthly billing statements and enhanced billing dispute rights for
• Banks are required to adopt procedures to oversee foreclosure firms, trustees and other
• Banks will have specific loss mitigation obligations, including customer outreach and
communications, time lines to respond to loss mitigation applications, and e-portals for
borrowers to keep informed of loan modification status.
• Banks are required to designate an employee as a continuing single point of contact to assist
borrowers seeking loss mitigation assistance.
• Military personnel who are covered by the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) will have
enhanced protections.
• Banks must maintain adequate trained staff to handle the demand for loss mitigation relief.
• Application and qualification information for proprietary loan modifications must be publicly
• Servicers are required to expedite and facilitate short sales of distressed properties.
• Restrictions are imposed on default fees, late fees, third-party fees, and force-placed
IV. Monitoring and Enforcement
The settlement with each bank will be incorporated into a Consent Judgment that will be submitted
to a federal judge for approval. Compliance with the servicing standards and financial obligations
of the banks can be ultimately enforced through court process. Civil penalties may be assessed for
violations of the Consent Judgment.
The banks’ performance of their obligations under the settlement will be overseen by an
independent Monitor. The Monitor will employ a staff of professionals to review the banks’
compliance. The Monitor will issue periodic reports to the attorneys general, including notices of
any potential violations.
The banks will report on their compliance in the form of agreed-upon metrics and outcome
measures. Included among the compliance metrics are testing for proper documentation of
foreclosures, loss mitigation offers and proper evaluation of loan modification applications. There
will also be testing to ensure that borrowers’ account information is accurate and that any fees are
properly assessed and are not excessive. If banks fail to remedy violations, they are subject to civil
penalties of up to $5 million from the court.
V. Payments to Foreclosure Victims
Approximately $1.5 billion of the settlement funds will be allocated to compensation to borrowers
who were foreclosed on after January 1, 2008. These borrowers will be notified of their right to
file a claim. Borrowers who were not properly offered loss mitigation or who were otherwise
improperly foreclosed on will be eligible for a uniform payment, which will be approximately
$2000 per borrower depending on level of response. Borrowers who receive payments will not
have to release any claims and will be free to seek additional relief in the courts. Borrowers may
also be eligible for a separate restitution process administered by the federal banking regulators.
VI. Payments to the States
The remaining settlement funds, approximately $2.5 billion, will be paid to the participating states.
The funds may be distributed by the attorneys general to foreclosure relief and housing programs,
including housing counseling, legal assistance, foreclosure prevention hotlines, foreclosure
mediation, and community blight remediation. A portion of the funds may also be designated as
civil penalties for the banks robo-signing misconduct.
VII. Release of Claims
The proposed Release contains a broad release of the banks’ conduct related to mortgage loan
servicing, foreclosure preparation, and mortgage loan origination services. Claims based on
these areas of past conduct by the banks cannot be brought by state attorneys general or banking
The Release applies only to the named bank parties. It does not extend to third parties who may
have provided default or foreclosure services for the banks. Notably, claims against MERSCORP, Inc.
or Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) are not released.
Securitization claims, including claims of state and local pension funds, and including investor
claims related to the formation, marketing or offering of securities, are fully preserved. Other
claims that are not released include violations of state fair lending laws, criminal law enforcement,
claims of state agencies having independent regulatory jurisdiction, claims of county recorders for
fees, and actions to quiet title to foreclosed properties. Of course, the Release does not affect the
rights of any individuals or entities to pursue their own claims for relief.