California to receive up to $1.8 billion in mortgage relief agreement

Bay Area homeowners who were victims of morgage fraud could see relief soon thanks to a $25 billion agreement reached between the nation's five largest lenders, the federal government and 49 state attorneys general.

The joint agreement, which aims to address mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure abuses, is the largest federal-state civil settlement ever reached, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris said this morning that California will receive up to $18 billion as part of the settlement to penalize robo-signing, or the practice of signing large numbers of documents without verifying their information, and other bank servicing and foreclosure misconduct.

"California families will finally see substantial relief after experiencing so much pain from the mortgage crisis," Harris said in a statement. "Hundreds of thousands of homeowners will directly benefit from this California commitment."

County-specific payments will be "based on the number of homeowners and the depth of the foreclosure crisis," according to Harris' office.

It is expected that homeowners in Contra Costa County will see $651,201,903 of the benefits over the commitment's three-year life. Alameda County homeowners can expect $757,072,633, while though Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernadino, Sacramento and Stanislaus counties will see approximately $7.8 billion in relief. Specific breakdowns within each county were not available.

The group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, or ACCE, which has staged anti-foreclosure events around the Bay Area, said today that the foreclosure deal is only a first step in improving the conditions for homeowners.

"This settlement is a down payment on the debt owed to homeowners and communities by the Wall Street gamblers that crashed our economy," ACCE member Vivian Richardson said. "It will bring relief to some of the victims of the fraud and abuse of Wall Street, but there is much more that needs to be done."

The group plans to work with the ReFund California Coalition and Harris to push for "real implementation and enforcement" of the settlement.

The agreement was reached with Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo

& Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Ally Financial Inc. Oklahoma was the only state that didn't participate in the agreement and will not receive financial assistance.

The banks will put forth the billions of dollars to provide refinancing for borrowers in high-interest-rate mortgages, and reduce principal amounts for families who owe more than their homes are worth, among other relief.

President Obama, in remarks made this morning, said the settlement will "begin to turn the page on an era of recklessness that has left so much damage in its wake."

The housing bubble and ensuing economic downtown resulted in more than 4 million families losing their homes to foreclosure, the president said. The agreement not only provides some relief but also establishes "significant new homeowner protections," according to the Department of Justice.

The new agreement aims to prevent foreclosure abuses such as robo-signing, improper documentation and lost paperwork. New servicing standards will also make foreclosure a last resort by requiring loan servicers to evaluate other options and prevent a servicer from foreclosing on a homeowner being considered for a loan modification.

"These practices were plainly irresponsible. And we refused to let them go unanswered," Obama said. "We're going to make sure that the banks live up to their end of the bargain."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by George
a resident of Alamo
on Feb 10, 2012 at 6:19 am

Everything bad that happens is always somebody else's fault. The new American Way.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Douglas
a resident of Blackhawk
on Feb 10, 2012 at 6:32 am

Well put, George! Couldn't have said it better myself.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Diane
a resident of Alamo
on Feb 10, 2012 at 6:53 am

Blah, blah, blah.

Backroom deals for public theater.

Take their super-PAC and campaign $$$ but badmouth them (wink, wink) for public theater.


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Posted by Citizen Paine
a resident of Danville
on Feb 10, 2012 at 8:20 am

By George, let's not forget that this was no bailout -- it was a settlement of lawsuits claiming Fraud in their lending practices. Do you believe they were Not fraudulent? Douglas? Bueller?

I think the much better point is Diane's weariness of these theatrical shenanigans -- $25B seems like a large number, until you realize that it's a small fraction of those banks' annual revenues (like around 6%) AND that they bought a ton of immunity for that 'investment.' And they will continue to pull the puppeteers' strings behind the curtain, with impunity. We're all their dupes.

The beat goes on -- to the tune of Citizens United.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Danville
on Feb 10, 2012 at 11:53 am

Citizen - you miss Doug and George's point - it can't be the ***bank's*** fault. It must be somebody ***else's*** fault. That's the New American Way. Under the new rules it's "politically incorrect" to blame a bank for anything. It must be Barney Frank's fault. Or maybe ACORN. But not, God Forbid - the banks. They were ***forced*** to make a ton of money pushing that paper in a way that tanked the economy and left millions of people owning homes that were worth less than their mortgages.

Not their fault -- see?

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Citizen Paine
a resident of Danville
on Feb 10, 2012 at 12:56 pm

I'm aware of that mythology, but NObody who has the government in its larcenous grip as thoroughly as Wall Street does can complain that ANYbody made 'em do ANYthing.

Their own instincts led them to play fast and loose with OPM (other people's money). The fact that they got thoroughly bailed-out -- and the rest of us didn't ought to suggest where The Power rests, comfortably.

Did Barney make 'em robo-sign all those papers, too? Surely you can find SOMEbody more worthy of your support, or disdain.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Aubrey
a resident of Alamo
on Feb 10, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Just the cost of doing business where fruad is part of the business model. In any other arena, felonies yield jail time as well as fines, but not in the TBTF banking model.

Dick Bove said it best, "why would anyone honor a contract after this?".

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jake
a resident of Alamo
on Feb 18, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Yes, It is always somebody else's fault. It was somebody else that put a gun to the head of those who bought expensive homes without downpayment, a job or credit! Well folk, it is all of our faults; we elect the politicians who in turn bribe us with our own money, we take the whatever we can when we get our turn, look the other way when friends and relatives cheat, ................. There is hope; there are still a minority of us who are legal,ethical and honest. Someday we may emulate them and get this mess turned around.

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