In February 2012, 49 state attorneys general and the federal government announced a historic joint state-federal settlement with the country’s five largest mortgage servicers:
This bipartisan settlement will provide as much as $25 billion in:
- Relief to distressed borrowers in the states who signed on to the settlement; and
- Direct payments to signing states and the federal government.
It’s the largest consumer financial protection settlement in US history.
The agreement settles state and federal investigations finding that the country’s five largest mortgage servicers routinely signed foreclosure related documents outside the presence of a notary public and without really knowing whether the facts they contained were correct. Both of these practices violate the law.
The settlement provides benefits to borrowers in the signing states whose loans are owned by the settling banks as well as to many of the borrowers whose loans they service. Borrowers from Oklahoma will not be eligible for any of the relief directly to homeowners because Oklahoma elected not to join the settlement.
KEY PROVISIONS OF THE SETTLEMENT
Immediate aid to homeowners needing loan modifications now, including first and second lien principal reduction. The servicers are required to work off up to $17 billion in principal reduction and other forms of loan modification relief nationwide.
State attorneys general anticipate the settlement’s requirement for principal reduction will show other lenders that principal reduction is one effective tool in combating foreclosure and that it will not lead to widespread defaults by borrowers who really can afford to pay.
Immediate aid to borrowers who are current, but whose mortgages currently exceed their home’s value. Borrowers will be able to refinance at today’s historically low interest rates. Servicers will have to provide up to $3 billion in refinancing relief nationwide.
Payments to borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure with no requirement to prove financial harm and without having to release private claims against the servicers or the right to participate in the OCC review process. $1.5 billion will be distributed nationwide to eligible borrowers . The National Mortgage Settlement Administrator will mail Notice Letters and Claim Forms in late September through early October 2012 to approximately 2 million borrowers who lost their home due to foreclosure between January 1, 2008 and December 31 2011 and whose loans were serviced by one of the five mortgage servicers that are parties to the settlement. These materials will explain to you how to get your payment if you are eligible. If you have further questions after reading this material, you can contact the National Mortgage Settlement Administrator at 1-866-430-8358.
Immediate payments to signing states to help fund consumer protection and state foreclosure protection efforts.
First ever nationwide reforms to servicing standards; something that no other federal or state agency has been able to achieve. These servicing standards require single point of contact, adequate staffing levels and training, better communication with borrowers, and appropriate standards for executing documents in foreclosure cases, ending improper fees, and ending dual-track foreclosures for many loans.
State AG oversight of national banks for the first time. Something no court could award.
- National banks will be required to regularly report compliance with the settlement to an independent, outside monitor that reports to state Attorneys General.
- Servicers will have to pay heavy penalties for non-compliance with the settlement, including missed deadlines.
BANKS ARE STILL ACCOUNTABLE FOR OTHER CLAIMS NOT COVERED BY THIS SETTLEMENT
This agreement holds the banks accountable for their wrongdoing on robo-signing and mortgage servicing. This settlement does not seek to hold them responsible for all their wrongs over the years and the agreement and its release preserve legal options for others to pursue.
Specifically, this settlement does not:
- Release any criminal liability or grant any criminal immunity.
- Release any private claims by individuals or any class action claims.
- Release claims related to the securitization of mortgage backed securities that were at the heart of the financial crisis.
- Release claims against Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems or MERSCORP.
- Release any claims by a state that chooses not to sign the settlement.
- End state attorneys general investigations of Wall Street related to financial fraud or the financial crisis.
The agreement settles only some aspects of the banks conduct related to the financial crisis (foreclosure practices, loan servicing, and origination of loans) in return for the second largest state attorneys general recovery in history and direct relief to distressed borrowers while they can still use it.
State cases against the rating agencies and bid-rigging in the municipal bond market, for example, continue. Claims and investigations against MERS and how Wall Street packaged mortgages into securities also continue.
On January 27 U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder along with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Director of Enforcement Robert Khuzami and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the formation of the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group. The working group will investigate those responsible for misconduct contributing to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities.