Independent Monitor Releases 1st Report on the Bank’s Compliance with the National Mortgage Settlement

This report provides tons of accessible information, lots of clear graphics. Includes a detailed timeline, and state-by-state bank compliance data.

 

Short Background

Last February, the federal government and 49 states (all but Oklahoma) entered into a settlement with five banks (Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo) which contained three major components:

  • create new standards by which the banks would service their mortgages, including those in foreclosure and bankruptcy;
  • provide loan modification relief to homeowners;
  • provide funding for state and federal governments.

In April this settlement was formalized with a federal court’s entry of consent judgments for each of the banks. Under the terms a total of about $25 billion was to be paid by the banks—directly and indirectly, in the form of:

  • About $17 billion in principal reduction and loan modification of mortgages;
  • About $3 billion in refinancing for homeowners who are current on their mortgages but owe more than their homes are worth;
  • $1.5 billion in payments to homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure between Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2011.
  • Payments to the 49 states.

The settlement also established a detailed set of nationwide reforms to mortgage servicing standards, which would require better communication with borrowers, appropriate staffing levels and training, and strict standards for documentation in foreclosure and bankruptcy cases.

The Monitor’s Job

The settlement also created the position of a Monitor, who oversees the banks’ compliance with certain major portions of the settlement during the three years that it is to be implemented. Specifically, the Monitor determines whether and to what extent the banks are following the above-stated $17 billion and $3 billion portions of the settlement, as well as the reformed mortgage servicing standards. The banks are to send regular compliance reports to the Monitor, who reviews and audits them (through his attorneys and accountants), and then makes his own reports to the court and to the parties.

Last March, the parties to the settlement selected a state bank regulator, Joseph A. Smith, Jr., to be the Monitor.

Features of the Report

This first report is not one that is required by the court judgments, but was prepared “to inform the public about the nature of the settlement, the steps that have been taken to implement it and the results to date.”

The 9-page main body of the report makes for an excellent, reasonably detailed but not overwhelming, summary of those points. It’s worthwhile reading for anyone interested in the settlement and how it is supposed to work.

The remaining 70 or so pages of the report consist of a set of 10 appendices, including these interesting ones:

  • Appendix I (starting on p. 12 of the report’s PDF): a clear timeline of what has happened so far and what is scheduled to happen between now and 2016 when the Monitor’s tasks are completed.
  • Appendix V (see p. 21): a breakdown of the dollar amounts and types of consumer relief that each of the banks is required to provide to homeowners.
  • Appendix VI (starting on p. 22): a detailed table of the reformed mortgage servicing standards that are required to be implemented by the five banks.
  • Appendix IX (starting on p. 29): a graphic showing a breakdown of the various forms of consumer relief given so far to homeowners as reported by each bank so far in the period from March 30 through June 30, 2012. In summary, the total relief so far is $10.6 billion, broken down into these categories:
    • Completed First Lien Modification Forgiveness $749 million
    • Completed Forgiveness of pre-3/1/12 Forbearance $348 million
    • Completed Second Lien Modifications and Extinguishments $231 million
    • Short Sales Completed $8.7 billion
    • Total Other Program Activity $459 million
    • Refinance Consumer Relief $103 million
  • Appendix X (starting on p. 32): state-by-state tables showing details of the relief given to each state’s homeowners by each bank, including how many homeowners were helped through each type of relief.

Conclusion

This report explains the mortgage settlement and its required implementation probably better than just about anything else that has been available. Mr. Smith is showing that he wants his role in the process to be transparent.  He’s also encouraging participation in various ways. His website, www.mortgageoversight.com, provides an opportunity for homeowners to report mortgage problems with their bank related to the settlement, “to help the Monitor better understand how servicers are treating their customers across the country.” He is also asking anyone who works with homeowners on their mortgages to inform him about problems they encounter in which a bank is not implementing the requirements of the settlement. He sponsors webinars to help those professionals “inform the oversight process.” He even has active YouTube and Twitter (@MSOversight) accounts as additional ways of distributing his news and information. Regardless what one thinks of the terms of the mortgage settlement itself, Mr. Smith seems committed both to providing a lot of information about the settlement’s ongoing implementation, and to inviting homeowners and their helpers to tell him about any possible problems with that implementation.

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