The National Mortgage Settlement’s Actual Terms Finally Released

The settlement documents of the deal that was announced more than a month ago were finally completed and filed at court on Monday, March 12. They catalog page after page of serious wrongdoing by the banks in their servicing of mortgages and processing of foreclosures.

In my last blog I said that the settlement would be finalized and made public “any day now.” It actually happened only hours later.

The settlement documents consist of hundreds of pages, but I’ll make it easy for you.

One document talks about the past, the wrongdoing by the banks. That’s the Complaint. The plaintiffs are the United States, 49 of the 50 states (all except Oklahoma), and the District of Columbia; the defendants are five of the biggest banks—Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, and Ally/GMAC, and their subsidiaries, totaling 18 named defendants. This 99-page Complaint is the subject of today’s blog.

The rest of the documents—one Consent Judgment for each of the five banks—talk about the agreed penalties for the banks’ past wrongdoing, but mostly focus on the future: 1) where the money from those penalties is going to be spent; and 2) the new standards by which these banks are now required to service mortgages and process foreclosures.  In my next blog I’ll talk about these penalties, and how they are supposed to help homeowners who have been hurt by the banks.

To say that the Complaint is 99 pages long is misleading, because it actually ends on page 48, followed by signature pages for each of the 51 plaintiffs. And In fact the document doesn’t really get to the point until the Factual Allegation starting on page 21. The detailed litany of bank misconduct goes on relentlessly for the following 16 pages, totaling 55 paragraphs of allegations, some including many subparagraphs of even more detailed allegations. It’s difficult to do justice to all this in one blog. To try to show both the breadth and depth of the alleged misconduct, I’ll give you most of the Complaint’s outline of the types of wrongdoing, and one or two examples quoted under each one:

A. The Banks’ Servicing Misconduct

            1. The Banks’ Unfair, Deceptive, and Unlawful Servicing Processes

Failing to timely and accurately apply payments made by borrowers and failing to maintain accurate account statements; imposing force-placed insurance without properly notifying the borrowers and when borrowers already had adequate coverage.

             2. The Banks’ Unfair, Deceptive, and Unlawful Loan Modification and Loss       Mitigation Processes

Providing false or misleading information to consumers while initiating foreclosures where the borrower was in good faith actively pursuing a loss mitigation alternative offered by the Bank; miscalculating borrowers’ eligibility for loan modification programs and improperly denying loan modification relief to eligible borrowers.

   3. Wrongful Conduct Related to Foreclosures

Preparing, executing, notarizing or presenting false and misleading documents, filing false and misleading documents with courts and government agencies, or otherwise using false or misleading documents as part of the foreclosure process (including, but not limited to affidavits, declarations, certifications, substitutions of trustees, and assignments).

 B. The Banks’ Origination Misconduct

   1. Unfair and Deceptive Origination Practices

In the course of their origination of mortgage loans in the Plaintiff States, the Banks have engaged in a pattern of unfair and deceptive practices. Among other consequences, these practices caused borrowers in the Plaintiff States to enter into unaffordable mortgage loans that led to increased foreclosures in the States.

 C. The Banks’ Bankruptcy-Related Misconduct

Making representations that were inaccurate, misleading, false, or for which the Banks, at the time, did not have a reasonable basis to make, including without limitation representations contained in proofs of claim under 11 U.S.C. § 501, motions for relief from the automatic stay under 11 U.S.C. § 362, or other documents.

 D. Violation of Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

The Banks foreclosed upon mortgages without required court orders on properties that were owned by service members who, at the time, were on military service or were otherwise protected by the SCRA.

 The 55 paragraphs of wrongdoing resulted in these five banks agreeing to pay about $26 billion in a combination of cash and other forms, to the states and to individual homeowners. As I said, I’ll tell you how this is supposed to be divvied up in my next blog.  

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