Banks Complete Consumer Relief Obligations

Author: Colin Robins March 18, 2014 0
 
Banks Complete Consumer Relief Obligations

Joseph A. Smith, Jr., monitor of the National Mortgage Settlement, filed final crediting reports with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Bank of America, Chase, Citibank, and Wells Fargo.

The reports confirmed that the banks have satisfied their consumer relief and refinancing obligations under the settlement, nearly a full year ahead of schedule.

In a press release, Smith commented, “My reports mark the end of the consumer relief portion of the Settlement. Because of the way this landmark agreement was designed, an unprecedented amount of relief has been provided to consumers quickly and efficiently.”

He continued, “Furthermore, I believe the rigorous testing process should justify public confidence that the banks have fulfilled their relief commitments and that the Settlement has played a part in helping keep struggling borrowers in their homes.”

Remunerations were called for after the banks engaged in widespread signing of foreclosure-related documents outside the presence of a notary public, and without confirmation whether the facts they contained were correct—both illegal actions.

The practice earned the futuristic-sounding sobriquet “robo-signing,” and necessitated 49 state attorneys general and the federal government to correct actions against wronged homeowners, eventually settling with the banks for an initial estimated figure of $25 billion.

Oklahoma was the lone holdout.

Smith noted that among the banks, 37 percent of total credit relief was in the form of first lien principal forgiveness, while second lien principal forgiveness made up 15 percent. Refinancing made up 17 percent of total credited relief, and other relief (including short sales and deeds in lieu of foreclosure) accounted for 31 percent of relief.

Shaun Donovan, secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), commented on a conference call with the media on Tuesday that over 600,000 consumers received on average more than $79,000 in relief.

7 out of every 10 dollars of credit for consumer relief, such as refinancings and principal reductions, came in a form that kept borrowers in their homes, Donovan said on the call.

Donovan added, “This settlement delivered on what we promised.”

The tone of the call between Donovan and Iowa attorney general Tom Miller was mostly laudatory towards the banks, praising them for quick action as well as payments that exceeded initial estimates.

Miller noted that $20 billion in credits and over $50 billion in total homeowner benefits were “well in excess of what we predicted or expected.”

$5.1 billion dollars was required for first lien principal reductions in the initial settlement, but the final figure from bank’s totaled almost $7.6 billion—nearly 50 percent more than what was required.

Miller fired back at detractors of the settlement who cautioned that principal reductions would create a “moral hazard,” encouraging borrowers to default on their loans to avoid payment.

“Many people in the industry … were saying that if there was any principal reduction there would be all this moral hazard, other people would stop paying—that the whole market would be seriously harmed. Well, we’ve had substantial principal reduction, 7.6 billion dollars’ worth, and none of this has happened. None of the problems, none of the concerns, none of the catastrophes that were predicted happened, as we predicted,” Miller said.

He noted that principal reductions were “a tool in the toolkit for dealing with homeowners in default.”

Miller continued, “We knew that there was no single solution, no magic bullet, to turn around the housing market. We knew there had to be pieces, and we thought that this would be one of the pieces, and clearly it has been. This is one of the reason’s the housing market now has turned in the right direction.”

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