Bank of America Corp. has agreed to pay $10.3 billion to Fannie Mae to resolve claims related to the sale of home mortgages. Separately, 10 lenders agreed to an $8.5 billion settlement with federal regulators to resolve claims of abuse related to foreclosure processing and mortgage loan servicing.
Under the terms of the Fannie settlement, announced yesterday, the bank will pay the government-sponsored enterprise $3.55 billion and repurchase 30,000 loans valued at an additional $6.75 billion.
The loans were made through Countrywide Financial Corp. from January 2000 through December 2008 and totaled $11.2 billion in unpaid principal balance as of Sept. 30.
“As we enter 2013, we sharpen our focus on serving our three customer groups and helping to move the economy forward,” Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said in a written statement. “Together, these agreements are a significant step in resolving our remaining legacy mortgage issues, further streamlining and simplifying the company and reducing expenses over time.”
“Fannie Mae has diligently pursued repurchases on loans that did not meet our standards at the time of origination, and we are pleased to have reached an appropriate agreement to collect on these repurchase requests,” Bradley Lerman, Fannie Mae executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.
Bank of America said its fourth-quarter results will include various items related to the settlement and other matters, but that it expects “modestly positive” earnings for the period.
The second settlement involved Aurora Financial, Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase & Co., MetLife Bank, PNC, Sovereign, SunTrust, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo & Co. As part of the agreement, the banks will make $3.3 billion in direct payments to borrowers plus $5.2 billion in additional assistance in the form of loan modifications and the forgiveness of deficiency judgments. The settlement will aid some 3.8 million borrowers whose homes were foreclosed upon from 2009 to 2010. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve Board negotiated the settlement.
The agreement will end a review process of foreclosure files that was required under a 2011 enforcement action. The review was ordered because banks mishandled people’s paperwork and skipped required steps in the foreclosure process.
“When we began the Independent Foreclosure Review, the OCC pledged to fix what was broken, identify who was harmed, and compensate them for that injury,” comptroller Thomas Curry said in a written statement. “While today’s announcement represents a significant change in direction, it meets those original objectives by ensuring that consumers are the ones who will benefit, and that they will benefit more quickly and in a more direct manner.”
The agreements are the banks’ latest step toward eliminating hundreds of billions of dollars in potential liabilities related to the housing crisis that crested in 2008. When they release fourth-quarter earnings later this month, the banks hope to reassure investors that they are making progress toward addressing those so-called legacy claims.
But advocates say the foreclosure deal allows banks to escape responsibility for damages that might have cost them much more. Regulators are settling at too low a price and possibly at the expense of the consumer, they say.
“This was supposed to be about compensating homeowners for the harm they suffered,” said Diane Thompson, a lawyer with the National Consumer Law Center. The payout guidelines already allowed wronged homeowners less compensation than the actual damages to them, she said.
Under the settlement, people who were wrongfully foreclosed on could receive from $1,000 up to $125,000. Failing to offer someone a loan modification would be considered a lighter offense; unfairly seizing and selling a person’s home would entitle that person to the biggest payment, according to guidelines released last summer by the OCC.
All of the homeowners who were in foreclosure will receive some compensation. That’s an average of $2,237 per homeowner, although the payouts are expected to vary widely.
Banks and consumer advocates had complained that the loan-by-loan reviews required under the 2011 order were time consuming and costly without reaching many homeowners. Banks were paying large sums to consultants who were reviewing the files. Some questioned the independence of those consultants, who often ruled against homeowners.
Thompson agreed that the earlier review process was deeply flawed and said the move toward direct payments is a positive development. But she said the deal will only work if it includes strong oversight and transparency provisions.
“It’s another get out of jail free card for the banks,” said Thompson. “It caps their liability at a total number that’s less than they thought they were going to pay going in.”
Citigroup said in a statement that the bank is “pleased to have the matter resolved” and believes the agreement “will provide benefits for homeowners.” Citi expects to record a charge of $305 million in the fourth quarter of 2012 to cover its cash payment under the settlement. The bank expects that existing reserves will cover its $500 million share of the non-cash foreclosure aid.
@|Matthew Huisman, a reporter for The National Law Journal, an affiliate of the New York Law Journal, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Associated Press contributed to this story.