The report from The New York Times on Wednesday about the foreclosure settlement reached between five big banks and 49 states’ attorneys general made it appear that justice was being served. The $26 billion to be paid out to some 2 million homeowners (former and current) “could provide relief” to them under the terms of the settlement. It would also remove a cloud of uncertainty from the banks’ liability and might help in “halting the housing market’s downward slide.”
States’ attorneys general started an investigation in the fall of 2010 into the mortgage servicing industry when it was discovered that homeowners were being evicted or penalized through improper, incorrect or false paperwork emanating from Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Ally Financial (formerly GMAC) with the help of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS).
Over the 14-month investigation the scope broadened and deepened as the extent of the costs and fraudulent abuses was revealed. The settlement means that, on the surface, the money will go to help homeowners affected by the fraud. A million homeowners can expect to have their existing mortgages reduced or their interest rates reduced. Another 750,000 former homeowners will receive, over the next three years, checks estimated to be about $2,000.
The size of the settlement fades into insignificance in light of the fact that there are more than