Details still to come in foreclosure settlement

  • Article by: JENNIFER BJORHUS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 9, 2013 - 9:14 PM

3.8 million borrowers eligible for compensation from participating lenders will be contacted by the end of March.

The $8.5 billion settlement between banking regulators and 10 major mortgage servicers announced this week came with scant instructions for the more than 3.8 million borrowers eligible for compensation.

A yet-to-be-appointed "payment agent" will contact all the borrowers directly by the end of March, regulators said. It doesn't matter whether the borrower ever arranged for one of the independent foreclosure reviews, a process that has been scuttled now.

"Eligible borrowers will receive compensation whether or not they filed a request for review form, and borrowers do not need to take further action to be eligible for compensation," federal bank regulators said in their joint release.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) said people can find out if they are in the pool of 3.8 million eligible borrowers by calling the independent foreclosure review number at 888-952-9105. Also, information about the settlement posted at www.independentforeclosurereview.com will be updated often to address frequently asked questions, said OCC spokesman Bryan Hubbard.

Spanish speakers with question can call Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio at 612-746-3500 or 651-379-4200. A Federal Reserve spokeswoman on Wednesday also suggested that homeowners can contact the company that serviced their mortgage to make certain the company has their current contact information.

The settlement covers more than 3.8 million borrowers who were in some stage of foreclosure in 2009 and 2010 with 10 mortgage servicing companies: Aurora, Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, MetLife Bank, PNC, Sovereign, SunTrust, U.S . Bank and Wells Fargo.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co., a major Minnesota employer, said its portion of the cash settlement is $766 million, with an additional $1.2 billion for foreclosure prevention.

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp said its portion includes a cash payment of $80 million and $128 million in other mortgage assistance.

Four banks originally part of the process did not sign on to the settlement: Ally Financial, HSBC, OneWest Bank and EverBank.

According to a Bloomberg News report Wednesday that cited unnamed sources, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and two other banks may agree to settle foreclosure abuse claims via a similar type of agreement.

Of the $8.5 billion, $3.3 billion is for direct payments to borrowers and $5.2 billion is for other help, such as loan modifications. Eligible homeowners are expected to receive payments ranging from hundreds of dollars up to $125,000.

"We are not looking for actual errors or harm," the OCC's Hubbard said Wednesday. "All 3.8 million borrowers will be slotted into categories of errors that could have occurred, based on loan attributes."

Loan attributes include basic features such as whether there were misapplied fees or whether the borrower was ever denied a loan modification and whether the borrower was a member of the military and thus subject to the Servicemember Civil Relief Act.

The settlement scuttles the time-consuming case-by-case reviews of loan documents that were underway and aims to speed up compensation to borrowers. Only 495,000 of the 3.8 million borrowers originally identified as potentially eligible borrowers had submitted claims for a review of their paperwork.

Since the reviews have been stopped, the extent of the wrongdoing during the foreclosures -- some people may have been wrongly evicted -- will likely never be known. Critics have called the settlement a victory for banks.

The settlement does not require borrowers to waive any legal claims they may have against their servicer.

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683

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