monday, 9 march of 2015

J.P. Morgan, Justice Department reach $50 million robo-signing settlement

A J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. unit struck a $50 million deal with regulators who accused the bank of filing “robo-signed” mortgage documents to bankruptcy courts across the country.

Under the deal with the U.S. Justice Department, J.P. Morgan Chase Bank N.A. promised to make payments to more than 25,000 homeowners, including some who weren't properly notified that their mortgage payments increased after they filed for bankruptcy protection.
The deal came after bank officials were accused of filing tens of thousands of documents to bankruptcy courts that weren’t actually reviewed by the people who vouched for their accuracy.
Specifically, bank officials admitted to filing more than 50,000 payment-change notices that were improperly signed, under penalty of perjury, by persons who hadn’t reviewed the accuracy of the notices, according to Justice Department officials.
More than 25,000 notices were signed in the names of former employees or of employees who had nothing to do with reviewing the accuracy of the filings, the Justice Department added.
“It is shocking that the conduct admitted to by Chase in this settlement…continued as long as it did,” said acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery. “Such unlawful and abusive banking practices can deprive American homeowners of a fair chance in the bankruptcy system, and we will not tolerate them.”
J.P. Morgan spokesman Jason Lobo said the company’s payment-change notices were appropriately reviewed “in the overwhelming majority of cases, even though the process for filing them electronically was flawed.”
“We have changed our system to ensure electronic signatures on bankruptcy filings will match the individual who reviewed the filing for accuracy,” said Mr. Lobo, who also disputed the department’s characterization of the process as robo-signing.
The payments to homeowners will come in the form of cash payments, mortgage-loan credits and loan forgiveness.
The settlement agreement was negotiated by the Justice Department’s U.S. Trustee Program, which monitors bankruptcy cases for wrongdoing.
“This settlement should signal once again to banks and mortgage servicers that they cannot continue to flout legal requirements, compromise the integrity of the bankruptcy system and abuse their customers in financial distress,” U.S. Trustee Program Director Cliff White said.
Tuesday’s settlement is the latest promise of relief to mortgage borrowers from J.P. Morgan. The bank is required to provide $4 billion in consumer aid under its $13 billon mortgage-securities settlement with the Justice Department. The bank said late last year it has provided more than half that amount by cutting mortgage debt for struggling homeowners and lending to low-income home buyers.
The Justice Department is requiring J.P. Morgan, as well as Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc., to spend money assisting struggling borrowers as a condition of their multibillion-dollar settlements. The three banks have all settled accusations that they had misled investors about the quality of the mortgage securities they sold before the 2008 financial crisis.
(Published by The Wall Street Journal – March 3, 2015)

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