Following a settlement with J.P. Morgan Chase and the filing of a lawsuit against Wells Fargo Inc., the federal government has filed litigation against the Bank of America (BofA) for mortgage fraud. In its complaint, the U.S., Attorney General says that the Bank of America committed fraud by selling defective mortgages.
The scheme became known within the corridors of the Bank of America offices as "the Hustle.” It’s a moniker for the BofA streamlines mortgage origination process program called High-Speed Swim Lane (HSSL).
The Government’s Complaint
Although there is nothing wrong with expediting the mortgage application process, the U.S. Attorney alleges in its complaint that the bank deliberately process the mortgages at a rapid paced and without adequate quality controls in place.
Furthermore, the reckless action resulted in “thousands of fraudulent and otherwise defective residential mortgage loans." Not only did American taxpayers get hit with more than $1 billion in losses but untold numbers of homeowners lost their homes through foreclosure.
According to documents filed in court, Bank of America inherited the practice from the subprime lender Countrywide Financial, which the institution purchased in 2008. It knowingly continue running the “Hustle” scheme through 2009. The complaint reveals Countrywide Financial had a loan defect rate of 40 percent -- 10 times the average defect rate for the entire mortgage industry.
In his press release, the U.S. Attorney General Preet Bharara describes the bank’s actions as “spectacularly brazen in scope."
The complaint outlines Countrywide and BofA practice of ignoring underwriters and quality control protocols. It also paid incentives to staff to fast-track the loans and cover up mortgages that failed to adhere to underwriting standards issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Furthermore, the mortgage lender’s senior management team was forewarned about the deficiencies and the looming quality control problem but refuse to take corrective actions. T
BofA Refutes Charges
BofA spokesperson Lawrence Grayson claims that the bank operated in a responsible manner. Grayson also responded to an issue raised in the complaint concerning the bank’s failure to buy back questionable mortgages from Fannie and Freddie. The institution cannot be expected to repurchase loans from “every entity that claims losses that actually were caused by the economic downturn,” said Grayson.
In the past 1 ½ years, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office has filed six cases of bank fraud against BofA and other major banks for faulty mortgage practices, which eventually led to the financial crisis of 2008.
Separate Complaint against BofA Amended
On Wednesday, a consortium of fair housing agencies amended an earlier lawsuit against the Bank of America. The amendment charges that the institution discriminates against black and Latino communities by failing to adequately maintain and market foreclosure homes.
After conducting an evaluation of over 500 foreclosed homes located in 13 cities, the coalition found that these homes had a greater propensity for maintenance issues, including rubbish, roof leaks, overgrown grass /shrubbery, and damaged doors and windows. In addition, about 27 percent of the homes in white neighborhoods had “For Sale” signs compared to zero percent in minority communities.
Bank of America responded by saying that it is committed to stabilizing and revitalizing communities that have been impacted by the economic downturn, foreclosures, and property abandonment.”