Bloomberg News

Regulators Begin Offering Foreclosure Reviews to Borrowers

November 09, 2011

(Updates with industry and regulator comments starting in the sixth paragraph.)

Nov. 1 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. mortgage servicers have begun offering case reviews to borrowers who may have suffered financial injury from errors and misrepresentations during foreclosure proceedings in 2009 and 2010, according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

The reviews, announced by the OCC in a statement today, are required under a settlement regulators reached with 14 of the biggest mortgage-servicing firms to resolve complaints over mishandled home seizures. The OCC was joined by the Federal Reserve and the Office of Thrift Supervision in the reaching the April accord with companies including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co.

The companies have hired independent consultants to review foreclosure actions to determine whether borrowers were harmed and recommend appropriate remediation where necessary, the OCC said today. Letters explaining the review process are being sent to an estimated 4.5 million eligible borrowers, who may request reviews through April 30, 2012, the agency said.

“The challenge is substantial, but the steps we have required the servicers to take are vitally important to resolving these issues in a way that respects the rights of those who have been harmed and helps to restore confidence in the system,” John Walsh, acting Comptroller of the Currency, said in the OCC’s statement.

A record 2.87 million homeowners received foreclosure filings in 2010, surpassing the 2.82 million total for 2009, according to Irvine, California-based RealtyTrac Inc.

Advertising Campaign

The first letters went out today, according to Joe Evers, the OCC’s deputy comptroller for large banks. Borrowers also can request a review at www.independentforeclosurereview.com.

Mortgage servicers will run an advertising campaign later this year and work with housing counselors to get word out to eligible borrowers, said Paul Leonard, a Financial Services Roundtable lobbyist who is serving as a spokesman for the firms.

It’s impossible to predict how many borrowers might be awarded compensation or when they might receive it, Leonard said today on a conference call. Regulators will make the final decision on whether borrowers have suffered harm and the amount of any remediation, he said.

The Fed and the OCC, which absorbed the OTS in July, haven’t offered said what might constitute harm to borrowers. Consultants will review company records and homeowner information to make decisions about compensation, according to Evers.

“Between the two sets of information, they should be able to determine if there’s injury or harm,” he told reporters on a conference call.

Robo-signing

Companies are being required to conduct the reviews under terms of the consent agreement they reached with regulators to resolve claims that they botched foreclosure paperwork amid the wave of foreclosures stemming from the subprime mortgage crisis. Reports of document robo-signing prompted several lenders to temporarily suspend foreclosures last year.

Servicers signing the accords included JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, Bank of America Corp., Citigroup, Ally Financial Inc.’s GMAC unit, Aurora Bank FSB, EverBank Financial Corp., HSBC Holdings Plc, OneWest, MetLife Inc., PNC Financial Services Group Inc., Sovereign Bank, SunTrust Banks Inc. and US Bancorp.

In addition to compensating harmed borrowers, the banks agreed to improve their foreclosure, loan modification and refinancing procedures by hiring staff, upgrading tracking systems, assigning each borrower a single point of contact, and policing lawyers and vendors.

State attorneys general and the U.S. Justice Department are continuing their own talks with servicers to seek additional relief for homeowners.

--Editor: Gregory Mott

To contact the reporter on this story: Lorraine Woellert in Washington at lwoellert@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lawrence Roberts at lroberts13@bloomberg.net


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