By Shahien Nasiripour
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Monday he may sue Wells Fargo and Bank of America for allegedly violating the terms of last year’s multi-state mortgage settlement, despite questions over his authority to do so.
The agreement, reached by the Department of Justice, Department of Housing and Urban Development and 49 state attorneys general, called for the five largest mortgage companies to significantly revamp their procedures for dealing with distressed borrowers. It called on them to provide billions of dollars in aid to those borrowers and change the way they pursue home repossessions, in exchange for prosecutors dropping legal claims that the companies systematically violated borrowers’ rights when using faulty, so-called “robosigned” documents in foreclosure proceedings.
Consumer advocates have heralded the establishment of standards for how the companies would treat borrowers who fell behind on their payments as the settlement’s signature achievement. The new mortgage servicing provisions were supposed to “address the issues that led to the creation of the settlement,” according to Joseph Smith, the settlement’s official monitor.
The five banks — JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citigroup and Ally Financial — collectively service more than half of all outstanding U.S. home loans. Since Oct. 2, 2012, they have had to comply with 304 mortgage servicing requirements, including offering struggling borrowers the opportunity to avoid foreclosure and approving or denying loan modifications within 30 days of receiving a complete application.
Schneiderman said Monday his office has uncovered 339 alleged violations of the settlement’s terms, 210 concerning Wells Fargo and 129 concerning Bank of America. He said he intends to sue the banks for “repeatedly violating” the settlement if the monitoring committee of representatives from various federal and state agencies declines to take action.