National Mortgage Settlement Monitor Reports Big Banks Violating Agreement
Compliance reports released Wednesday by court-appointed National Mortgage Settlement Monitor Joseph Smith confirms accusations made by New York’s attorney general that big banks are not living up to the $25 billion settlement’s terms.
According to the reports provided to the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, the most common violations involve Citigroup, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, which are still failing to notify borrowers regarding missing paperwork within five days of receiving a modification request, the compliance reports said.
Additionally, Citigroup and Bank of America were also accused of sending inaccurate information to homeowners when initiating the foreclosure process.
“These findings, combined with the complaints I have heard from attorneys general, counselors and distressed borrowers, tell me there is still work to be done,” Smith said in a release from the Raleigh, N.C.-based Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight. “While I believe distressed servicing is better this year than it was last, it is not yet where it needs to be. Specifically, I have heard regularly in the last year about issues with the loan modification process, single points of contact and billing and statement inaccuracies.
“The settlement anticipated that there may be a need for additional tests, and, as such, allows me to create more. Accordingly, I am negotiating more stringent testing with the banks now to better address these issues.”
The report affirms New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s claims that Wells Fargo has violated servicing standards that govern timelines for processing loan modification applications.
In a release Wednesday, Schneiderman said the report was unable to assess Bank of America’s servicing standards compliance because it did not enact them quickly enough for Smith to review.
“Today’s report by the National Mortgage Settlement Monitor affirms that the pattern of violations by Wells Fargo that my office documented in New York is harming homeowners nationwide,” Schneiderman added. “
“Recent reports from Bank of America whistleblowers that the bank actually encouraged improper delays of modification applications are also deeply disturbing, and reinforce our concern that these banks are flouting their legal obligations under the settlement,” he said.
Schneiderman announced in May his intent to sue Wells Fargo and Bank of America over the violations.
“I intend to use every tool available to my office to hold these banks accountable under the terms of the National Mortgage Settlement,” he said.
Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a release that the report did reveal some good news, that robo-signing has come to an end, and the five largest banks have stopped charging fees to process loan modification requests.
“Unfortunately, other abuses shamefully endure,” Donovan said. “The five financial institutions are officially on notice; they must correct these problems and pass the monitor's tests or the Obama administration, along with the bipartisan group of 49 state attorneys general we partnered with on this effort, will fine them up to $5 million for each failure or haul them back into court.”
Wells Fargo issued a statement Wednesday saying it has already taken corrective action to remedy the reported violations.
However, Bank of America issued a defiant statement Wednesday, denying accusations from whistleblowers made public earlier in the week that claimed the bank offered bonuses to employees who denied modification requests.