Thursday, April 21, 2011

WSJ Reports on Bank Regulations Relating to Foreclosure

The Wall Street Journal reports on penalties and enforcement orders relating to the foreclosure practices conducted by many of the largest home lenders. 

Big Banks Get Foreclosure Orders

Regulators Detail Steps Lenders Must Take to Revamp Processes; Fines Are Still to Come

U.S. regulators hit the nation's largest banks with a first round of sweeping penalties for improper home-foreclosure practices, issuing detailed orders to revamp the way they deal with troubled borrowers.  The orders issued on Wednesday to 14 financial institutions didn't include fines. Officials said they are coming.
"There will be civil money penalties; the question is timing and amount. But we're not letting that clock run forever," Acting Comptroller of the Currency John Walsh told reporters. The orders were issued by his office, the Federal Reserve and the Office of Thrift Supervision.
The regulators issued the orders to the nation's four largest banks—Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. Also receiving orders were Ally Financial Inc., HSBC Holdings PLC, MetLife Inc., PNC Financial Services Group Inc., SunTrust Banks Inc., U.S. Bancorp, Aurora Bank, EverBank, OneWest Bank and Sovereign Bank.  Bank of America, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan and Citigroup were ordered to revamp mortgage-lending practices.
Under the orders, banks have 60 days to establish plans to clean up their mortgage-servicing processes to prevent documentation errors.  The orders also direct banks to take steps to ensure they have enough staff to handle the flood of foreclosures, that foreclosures don't happen when a borrower is receiving a loan modification and that borrowers have a single point of contact throughout the loan-modification and foreclosure process.
Banks must hire an independent consultant to conduct a "look back" of all foreclosure proceedings from 2009 and 2010 to evaluate whether they improperly foreclosed on any homeowners and require each company to establish its own process to consider whether to compensate borrowers who have been harmed.  Critics, including other regulators, believe this process and other aspects of the orders leave too much discretion to banks.

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