Toronto Bank of America settled with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for $110 million to offset the fact that on “hundreds of thousands” of foreclosures Countrywide stole and cheated from people before B of A bought the outfit. Angelo Mozilo, the former head of Countrywide, was once famously quoted in a bit of braggadocio as saying that the company “made money on foreclosures.” When negotiating with Countrywide directly they pretty much disproved that comment to our negotiating team in 2008, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t swindle people, which seems crystal clear in this settlement.
The litany of rip-offs on foreclosure victims seems to have included inflated appraisal fees, misstated costs, added fees, and deliberate falsification of even the amounts they still owed on the mortgage at the point of bankruptcy hearings. Our old chant: “Predatory Lender, Criminal Offender!” seems mild when the list is detailed.
This is the FTC’s largest fine and will be distributed to 200,000 victims, once they can figure out the accounting, which one FTC wag quoted in the Times saw was worse than what one would see in a “college fraternity.” When adding this amount to the over $600 million settlement on a class action for defrauding pension investors on its securities, we are no doubt close to adding another billion to the original price that Bank of America paid on the fire sale purchase of Countrywide.
All of that is fine and dandy, but given what I have seen in Phoenix and heard about in Tampa and elsewhere, I do not believe that Bank of America has really cleaned up the mess, even though they may be settling some suits and complaints. Their record keeping and response to foreclosure victims is still sketchy, oblique, and marked by missing and lost records by the bank and misreading of the documents. There are still hundreds of thousands of foreclosure victims in the queue trying to hold on to their houses or succeed in getting modifications to right size the properties. It seems tragic that no matter how many times there is proof of the mess here with Countrywide / Bank of America loans, there still seems to be no real relief until after the damage is done.
Why can’t we get the government to get in here and really straighten this out before more damage is done and tens of thousands of families are victimized even more?