Banks are catching up on millions of backlogged foreclosures, but there’s not much they can do to defend themselves against some damning claims made in a handful of new reports from the Office of the Inspector General. The reports include audits of Bank of America, Wells Fargo, CitiMortgage, JPMorgan Chase, and Ally Financial–all of whom recently agreed to pay $1.5 billion back to consumers for dubious lending practices.
“This has been a long road for us–beginning with a voluminous task for a small organisation ending with laborious negotiations that involved many moving parts,” said David Montoya, Inspector General. “More importantly though, the average citizen will greatly benefit from having a healthier FHA program to access and having strengthened standards in place to mitigate such abusive practices in the future.”
Here are some particularly disturbing findings:
-They weren’t kidding about the robo-signing: One BofA manager claimed she signed nearly 68,000 documents (93 per day) and notarized 1,390 over a two year period.
–One Ally employ admitted he “routinely signed 400 affidavits per day and up to 10,000 affidavits per month, certifying that he had personal knowledge of the facts when he did not and without reviewing the supporting documentation referenced in them.”
-Auditors found notaries would sign off on documents before they were even cleared by affiants (workers who sign an affidavit and attest to its truthfulness before a notary).
-Citi didn’t even have a process in place for signing foreclosure documents until November 2009
-BofA outsourced foreclosure documents to law firms for review but nonlawyers would often forge attorney’s signatures. One attorney’s signature appeared on five separate foreclosure documents–each in different handwriting (see photo left).
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been tasked with more closely regulating mortgage servicers. There’s a special section on its where consumers can file complaints about mortgage lenders and rolled out new guidelines on auditing lenders.
If you believe your home was foreclosed in error, it’s not too late to submit to the government’s independent foreclosure review. It’s open to 4.5 million homeowners and all submissions are due by April 2012.
Here are a few warning signs your mortgage lender is up to no good:
The interest rate is too good to be true
They pressure you to act quickly
They pressure you to take out a risky or expensive loan
They ask you to lie on your application
The fees are high compared to other lenders’ fees
The fees and/or terms suddenly change at closing