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BofA offers help to struggling homeowners to avoid millions in penalties

Charlotte-based Bank of America will provide mortgage relief to some 200,000 homeowners, according to the Wall Street Journal. Qualified borrowers who are “underwater” on their mortgages would have a chance to cut their balances to the home’s current market value.

Some cash-strapped homeowners may skeptically be wondering: “What’s the catch?”

Well this side deal is part of the $25 billion settlement announced in February designed to resolve federal and state investigations into widespread mortgage fraud, including fraudulent foreclosure practices.

Here’s more from the WSJ:

“The expanded program could allow Bank of America to avoid paying $350 million in penalties tied to the foreclosure settlement and half of a separate $1 billion penalty related to a settlement of false claims filed on loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, if the bank meets certain targets. Many of the write-downs will be made on loans originated by Countrywide Financial Corp., which Bank of America acquired in 2008, and then packaged into securities. BofA will also reduce balances on loans it owns.”

That last sentence is important – the deal applies to those loans owned by Bank of America.  Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA or VA-backed loans are not eligible for the principal reductions.

It’s estimated that in North Carolina more than 171,000 households are underwater, owing thousands of dollars more on their mortgage than their home is worth.

One Comment

  1. Wil Sormrude

    March 12, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Editorial Department
    March 10, 2012

    AG OUTRAGE?

    Where is the outrage from the attorney generals that signed off on the 26 billion dollar settlement deal? They are being duped again and yet seem to be comfortable that they have been played and outwitted.
    Recently Les Christe wrote for CNN that, “ Bank of America to slash mortgage balances by $100,000 or more” One would think this to be wonderful news and look like the banks are finally stepping up to correct past wrongs. Absolutely just the opposite is happening.
    The AGs held their noses and signed onto this ‘get out of jail free card’ for $26 billion to help the greatest number of people possible. They even choked down the banks claim that it would take three years to give away a pile of money this large though the principal reductions at an average of $20,000 each. Now we see this was only a distraction. The AGs are good, honest, and honorable people. This puts them at a severe disadvantage when dealing with the banks. In the robo signing scandal one bank would be considered a bad apple and dealt with accordingly. When we find fourteen banks were doing it we now have a band of conspirators.
    . The AGs should get ahead of this new $100,000 principal reduction program now so they at least get to save face and still be able to help the maximum amount of people possible as they intended with their giveaway to the banks. Rest assured that just like robo signing was the adopted practice of not one bank but many, this new program will be adopted almost overnight by the five big offending banks that have already dodged the bullet once.
    In the CNN article by Les Christie, Rick Simon, the spokesman of Bank of America, said ‘those principal reductions are much deeper than the ones originally announced as part of the robo signing settlement deal’. Was he smiling at the time? He should have been because we got duped again.
    No sooner did the ink dry on the free pass settlement than the bank decided it is now safe to continue to game the system. Immediately it was decided that the $26 billion cap ended their exposure and it is best to give the money away as quickly as possible. Why help one million people at $20,000 each when we can cut our work load and expense by 80% and give it away to 200,000 people. Wrap this up in a few months rather than three years. Hiring people to place five calls and handle five files is way too expensive. Give the same amount of money away with one call and one file. The AGs intent was to help the most people to get the country back on its feet but they did not say how the banks should do it. Once they wash their hands of the $26 billion the banks can move onto more profitable scams like raising the debit card fees to $5.00 again. Bank of America is saying principal reductions of $100,000 or more. Why not wrap this up by Tuesday and find a number of multimillion dollar homes and give them the ‘more’ part and whack off a million or two from the mortgages of their best customers and friends. Why settle for an 80% savings in the administration costs of this program where the door was left ajar for the banks to save 95%.

    The AGs did not intend for Bank of America to simply pull up the first 200,000 mortgages of $125,000 or more and forgive $100,000 or $124,999. They expected that millions of struggling families across America would all benefit from the banks admission of fraud and receive some relief.
    The AGs should be outraged that they are being played yet again. They should be embarrassed that they failed to take better control of the settlement disbursements. At the end we should expect at least an apology from them that the 49 AGs grossly under estimated their opponent yet again.

    William Sormrude
    964 Shewville Road
    Ledyard, CT 06339
    860-501-0130 cell