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January 08, 2013

Banks Win Mortgage Settlement From Regulators

Posted in: Uncategorized

In what can only be described as a slap to the face of victims of the housing crisis and an insult to even the vaguest notion of the rule of law, the banks responsible for the mortgage meltdown and subsequent financial crisis and recession have once again escaped justice. After criminal cases were dropped despite massive evidence the civil cases are now settled with regulators and its a slam dunk for the banks. Total victory:

In two of the biggest civil settlements since the financial crisis, the nation’s biggest banks agreed Monday to cough up nearly $19 billion to resolve federal allegations of mortgage misdeeds.

Bankers saw the settlements as a major step in providing more certainty for their balance sheets and possibly foreshadowing an end to the era of billion-dollar mea culpas and open-ended regulatory probes.

In one case, 10 banks settled with regulators for $8.5 billion. In the second, Bank of America Corp. agreed to pay almost $10.4 billion to Fannie Mae, the giant loan buyer that the U.S. seized and propped up with tens of billions of taxpayer dollars.

The deals come three years after prosecutors dropped criminal investigations against such subprime-mortgage kingpins as Countrywide Financial Corp.’s Angelo Mozilo in favor of pursuing civil fines.

Chump change to say the least. But then again, why would the banksters even agree to this?

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), also criticized the regulators’ decision to reach a settlement with the mortgage servicers.

Cummings said the settlement “effectively terminated the Independent Foreclosure Review process before providing Congress answers to serious questions about how this settlement amount was determined.”

That’s one less embarrassing congressional hearing. What makes it funny is that the Independent Foreclosure Review was being extremely well gamed by the banks to prevent homeowners or rather previous homeowners from getting justice:

The Government Accountability Office concluded that the initial letter, the request-for-review form and foreclosure review Web site were “written above the average reading level of the U.S. population.” What’s more, the study said, the materials did not include specifics about what borrowers might receive as a remedy, possibly affecting their motivation to respond.

In any case, as of Dec. 6, 2012, only 322,771 borrowers had requested an independent review, according to the Fed. That’s 7.3 percent of the affected borrowers during the period, a figure that does not mirror the widespread problems regulators said they had identified in the foreclosure system.

“The O.C.C.-Fed review is just another flawed outreach program designed to fail,” said Ned Brown, a legislative strategist at the marketing consultant Prairie Strategies in Washington. “The servicers rolled the regulators.”

And now even that dysfunctional program is gone with fraudulently foreclosed on homeowners left twisting in the wind. Oh, but they still get a few thousand dollars from this “settlement.” That’s right folks, millions of people have been defrauded by the banks, divide that by $8.5 billion and it ain’t much, certainly not enough to restore the damage done.

But beyond the feeble payments (and nonpayments) to the current victims, what about future victims? Wall Street has won, completely. They broke the law, endangered the entire country’s economy, and have not only not suffered but prospered. Bailouts, emergency mergers, and no prosecutions or serious fines. The financial crisis has been a a net win for Wall Street.

Why wouldn’t they do it again?

Photo by Tau Zero under Creative Commons license

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