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NYC Attorney General Says Banks Must Come Clean on Foreclosures

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November 20, 2011 at 8:04 PM

Like naughty children who made a mess and are trying to sneak away before cleaning it up, some of the nation’s largest banks are finally being held accountable for foreclosure debacles.

Multinational banks such as Bank of America have foreclosed on numerous, hard working homeowners, claiming that they didn’t “furnish the right paperwork” or “adhere to certain requirements” often unknown or undisclosed to borrowers.

Homeowners like the hardworking NYC police officer whose case was recently challenged in the New York Supreme Court. Bank of America’s lawyer argued in front of Justice Catherine M. Bartlett that the homeowner didn’t make enough money to qualify for a mortgage modification and failed to send Bank of America the right documentation--hence he should be foreclosed upon.

Following the lawyer’s argument, Justice Bartlett blasted the bank. “Bank of America got a bailout, and this is an outrage, how this man has been treated. Hard-working, middle-class Americans are trying to make it, trying to refinance with your bank.”

Justice Bartlett demanded that either bank officials show up in person or they will be ordered to appear “here in handcuffs.”

The Occupy Movement is Trying to Help Struggling Homeowners

Unfortunately this display of injustice is not uncommon. Thousands of homeowners continue to face foreclosure, which has fired up the “Occupy” movement.

Cleveland homeowner, Elizabeth Sommerer was able to reach out to about 15 protesters who connected her with a local government representative. After working with the representative, Sommerer’s eviction was delayed by 30 days.

Regarding the protesters, Sommerer says in a YouTube video, “They stand up for the little guy.”

Occupy protester, Chris Soboleski said, “Even if you do have to foreclose on someone, you can do it with a certain amount of compassion and humanity. There's a certain amount to be said for rules, but on the other hand we all want to live in a society where humanity matters more than bureaucracy."

While Sommerer was given a temporary reprieve not all Occupy efforts have halted foreclosures. Despite their efforts, the Rorey family in Snellville, GA lost their home after falling victim to one of the many predatory mortgage loan modification scams floating around on the market.

Regarding the Rorey family’s misfortune, Fannie Mae’s spokeswoman reminded borrowers that they are here to help.

“We have a Mortgage Help Center in Atlanta where homeowners can meet with a trusted housing counselor to discuss their mortgage situation and options to avoid foreclosure," she said. "Unfortunately, the homeowner did not seek assistance from our Help Center."

The Occupy movement hopes to be more successful for Monique White. In 2009 White, like so many borrowers, fell behind in her mortgage payments. She tried to obtain a loan modification from US Bank but during the process ended up losing her job. "That's when everything started spiraling out," she said.

Since early November 30 protesters have been parked on White’s lawn including 25-year-old Nick Espinosa. “They just had record profits this quarter, and the CEO of US Bank, Richard Davis, just doubled his salary to $19 million. So what we're talking about with a family like Monique's is pennies to them."

Although White has been working part-time at a local liquor store, she still needs full time employment.

“Basically what I'm looking for is for US Bank to rewrite my loans in order for me to stay in my home and make it affordable for me," White said. "I'm not asking for a handout. All I'm asking is for time or for Freddie Mac or US Bank, whoever owns the house or is trying to take the house, to come to the table.”

Banks Must Pay

In addition to the Occupy movement, New York City Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is sick and tired of seeing banks deflect accountability

Schneiderman is currently involved in a battle against the Obama administration’s desire to motivate the banks to contribute around $20 billion (to $25 billion) to help with foreclosure relief. While $20 billion would be considered to be a nice chunk of change in some situations, its going to take a lot more money to quell the chaos caused by some of the nation’s biggest banks.

According to Josh Zinner, co-director of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, $25 billion dollars won’t get the economy very far.

“Twenty-five billion dollars may at first glance seem to be a big number. First of all, it’s divided among the five biggest servicers, including the four largest banks in the country. In a way, that’s chump change for them, given the amount of damage their practices have caused.”

“The vast majority of funds that comes out of the settlement—they’re not going to go to states to set up programs,” he continued. “The money is going to be at the discretion of the banks themselves to figure out how to use it. It’s supposed to be used to write down principal, but a lot of that is at the bank’s discretion.” Zinner added that it remained unclear how the banks would use the money toward distressed mortgages.

Schneiderman said that the parameters of the original offer are “too broad.” He added, “And the right parties aren’t at the table, either. The only folks that are being negotiated with are the banks, so the only mortgages that are being dealt with are the ones the banks hold in their own portfolios. That’s less than 20% of mortgages in America.” He said that troubled mortgages held by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac weren’t included in the deal as well.

Along with Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, Schneiderman wants the big banks to deliver more than $200 billion (instead of $20 to $25 billion) to help the government write down a slew of mortgages.

Part of Schneiderman’s platform is to force the big banks to reveal all of the shady practices and procedures that have gone on before, during and after the bubble burst.

East Flatbush in Brooklyn resident, Zacary Lareche sees Schneiderman’s agenda as a champion for the little guy. “We have Mr. Schneiderman, who is not going along with the banks but is investigating them.”

“We appreciate that,” Lareche continued. “We need more people like the attorney general to put their heads together to stop the banks, to bring our communities around.”

“If you don’t air out the policies that led to the implosion of the economy, it will happen again,” he said. “There’s not one sentence in the proposed agreement, not one period or comma about the stuff that blew up the economy. We can’t let the banks rewrite history.”





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