Let’s boil it down: In late 2010, media reports of widespread alleged deceptive foreclosure practices by the nation’s biggest mortgage lenders were rampant. Those reports and the resulting pressure caused those banks to temporarily suspend a large number of pending foreclosures.
Since last fall, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo, Citibank and Ally Financial have been negotiating a settlement with state attorneys general across the nation to avoid litigation. A $25 billion settlement sounds impressive, but consumer watchdogs say it won’t do much for those who were harmed. More on that later.
Enter Bank of America mortgage customer Ann Ross. In July 2010, she claims Bank of America officials advised her to stop making payments on her home, so that she could qualify for a loan modification. Time and again, Ann said she sent Bank of America the paperwork it required, but she could never get feedback about the status of her modification.
Months passed, and then out of the blue, Ann said Bank of America sent her a notice of pending foreclosure, as if, according to Ann, the bank’s left hand didn’t know what its right hand was doing. That’s when Ann contacted TrustDale.com My team and I met with Ann, gathered the relevant paperwork and joined Ann on a phone call to the office of the bank’s vice president. I was shocked to hear the person on the other end of the line, (the assistant to the VP) leading Ann through an Abbott and Costello-ish “who’s on first” routine.
That’s when I joined the conversation. “Hi, my name is Dale Cardwell; I’m a consumer investigator and host of TrustDale TV and Radio here in Atlanta.” Suddenly the tables turned, and the assistant who seemed quite comfortable in delivering double-speak to Ann became tongue-tied.
She couldn’t explain to me why the bank seemed to continually lose Ann’s paperwork and why the loan modification Ann had been pursuing was going nowhere. Ann Ross is a real person who is caught up — and her future tied — to the apparent settlement reached between the government and the five major lenders. The good news? Ann believes TrustDale’s intervention on her behalf convinced Bank of America to suspend action on her foreclosure. The bad news? A year an a half after she asked for a loan modification, she has no idea if she’ll ultimately get one.
Here’s the reality of the proposed settlement. A $25 billion payout by the five major lenders would be the largest settlement with a single industry since the 1998 tobacco deal, but most people who’ve lost their homes won’t receive much benefit. For example, observers familiar with the terms said those who lost their homes through deceptive practices would not regain their homes, but receive a check for about $ 1,800. Big whoop.
So why is there a settlement? It’s a way for politicians to claim they took punitive action, while stopping short of criminal prosecution. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) a critic of the settlement, said, “Wall Street again is trying to pass the buck. Instead of criminal prosecutions, we’re talking about something that’s not more than a slap on the wrist.”
You can call it a lack of accountability. I call it a big bank buyoff. I’ll be watching what happens now to Ann Ross.For great consumer advice and companies you can trust, go to www.TrustDale.com. Watch Dale Cardwell on TrustDale TV weekends on Fox 5; and don’t miss his new consumer problem-solving radio show on Saturday afternoons on WSB-AM News/Talk 750 and NOW 95.5 FM.