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Minnesota joins national mortgage settlement

February 09, 2012


For Immediate Release

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and Commissioner of Commerce Mike Rothman today jointly announced Minnesota’s participation in a national mortgage settlement through which Minnesota borrowers will be eligible for up to $280 million. This includes up to $113 million in monetary and refinancing relief to borrowers, and up to $167 million in principal reductions and other homeowner relief, according to national estimates. The national settlement involves the nation’s five largest national mortgage lenders:  Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, and GMAC/Ally Financial.  The settlement was negotiated by state attorneys general, the United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

 The settlement provides for the following:

  • Direct Payments to Borrowers. Up to $77 million in direct payments to Minnesota borrowers as follows: Borrowers who were foreclosed on between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2011 will be eligible for cash refunds estimated to be around $2,000 if they lost their home as a result of financial hardship and while either trying to save it through a modification or whether there were errors in the foreclosure process. The federal government has estimated Minnesota’s portion of this part of the settlement to be valued at about $33.9 million. The exact payment to Minnesota borrowers will depend upon the number of eligible borrowers who file claims.

  • Borrowers of the five banks may file a claim for monetary relief if they were harmed by the banks’ practices. Minnesota’s portion of this part of the settlement is valued at about $43.4 million.

  • Refinancing Benefits. This federal portion of the settlement allows borrowers of mortgages owned by the five banks to refinance to a lower interest rate if they are current on their mortgage and have no delinquencies in the last 12 months, are currently “underwater” on their mortgage (e.g. owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth), originated their loan prior to January 1, 2009, and are paying an interest rate of 5.25 percent or more.  The federal government has estimated Minnesota’s portion of this part of the settlement to be worth about $36 million in refinancing benefits for Minnesota borrowers, with the exact amount to be determined by the number of refinances to be made available nationwide.

  • Principal Reductions and Other Relief.  Under the federal government’s portion of the settlement with the banks, Minnesota borrowers of loans owned, or in some cases serviced, by the five banks will also be eligible for principal reductions, forbearance for unemployed borrowers, short-sale assistance, transitional housing assistance, and other relief.  The federal government estimates that this will benefit Minnesota borrowers up to $167 million.  Under the federal government portion of the settlement, the principal reduction relief applies to borrowers who are 30 days delinquent or face imminent risk of default and are “underwater” on their mortgages. 

“Ordinary homeowners struggling to make ends meet in the bad economy have routinely faced corporate red-tape and callous disregard when asking the big national banks for help.  This settlement gets some money back to people who have been hurt by the big five banks and hopefully will help others trying to work out loan modifications down the road,” said Attorney General Swanson. 
 
State bank regulators, including the Minnesota Department of Commerce, were asked to sign onto the settlement.  Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman joined Attorney General Lori Swanson today in signing the agreement. As part of the settlement, the Commerce Department will receive $1 million as the State's banking regulator.
 
“This settlement is a significant step toward addressing some of the serious mortgage servicing misconduct following the 2008 financial meltdown,” said Commissioner Rothman. “The Commerce Department will continue to work closely with the Attorney General’s Office to deliver needed relief for Minnesota homeowners whose lives have been financially impacted. Moving forward, we will remain vigilant in our efforts to monitor and regulate the mortgage servicing sector, and help all Minnesota consumers so they are treated fairly under the law.”

The settlement also provides for tougher national mortgage servicing standards including:

  • Servicers must process loan modification applications in 30 days.

  • Servicers can’t proceed to a foreclosure if a borrower has a loan modification application pending at least 15 days prior to the sheriff sale.

  • If a borrower is in compliance with a trial loan modification, servicers cannot commence a foreclosure sheriff sale.

  • Servicers may only charge one month’s late fee for a missed monthly payment.

  • Servicers must process “short sale” (e.g. selling an underwater home for less than the mortgage) requests within 30 days.

  • Servicers must provide timely and accurate information to borrowers regarding loan information, including payment history, copies of assignments demonstrating the right to foreclose, name of the investor who owns the loan, information needed to bring the account current, and an itemization of late payment fees.

Last September, Attorney General Swanson wrote a letter to the United States Department of Justice and lead state negotiators urging them not to release as part of any settlement the following types of claims: 1) criminal liability; 2) private individual claims; 3) claims related to the securitization of mortgage backed securities that were at the center of the financial crisis; and 4) claims against the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, or MERS.  The national settlement preserves these claims.

Borrowers with questions about the settlement may call the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office at 651-296-3353 or 1-800-657-3787 or the Minnesota Department of Commerce at 651-539-1600 or 1-800-657-3602.  More information is also available at www.ag.state.mn.us.