The Long-Awaited Nationwide Mortgage Settlement: Only a Small Step Forward in the Struggle for Accountability in the Financial Crisis
After sixteen months of negotiation, state attorneys general and the federal government have reached agreement on a record joint state-federal settlement with the country’s five largest lenders—Ally Financial (formerly GMAC), Bank of America, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo—over improper foreclosure practices. The nationwide accord seeks to address banks’ misconduct that took place after the burst of the housing bubble. Some of the largest lenders in the country that process foreclosures issued improper mortgages, violated homeowners’ rights and protections, and used false affidavits. Bank employees did not properly verify documents; they signed papers they had not read or forged signatures to expedite foreclosing on homeowners, also known as “robo-signing” documents. Announced in February, the deal consists of $25 billion in relief to distressed borrowers as well as direct payments to states and the federal government. While this is the largest multistate settlement since the Tobacco Settlement in 1998 and the largest consumer financial protection arrangement in U.S. history, one question remains: is this settlement a comprehensive solution to the current foreclosure crisis?