State and federal regulators announced on Thursday a settlement worth at least $25 billion with Bank of America and four other large banks, ending several years of litigation over alleged foreclosure abuses. The deal offers some help to struggling homeowners, but experts view it more as a moral victory with limited impact on the broader housing market.
The announcement capped months of intense negotiations that involved federal regulators, state attorneys general, consumer advocacy groups and big players on Wall Street and in finance. It was the largest government-industry settlement involving states since the $200 billion-plus tobacco industry settlement in 1998.
The settlement effectively punishes the banks for alleged abuses in the foreclosure process, including robo-signing, which involves providing fraudulent documents in court proceedings when trying to take back properties from homeowners who are delinquent on their mortgages.
"Under the terms of this settlement, America's biggest banks, banks that were rescued by taxpayer dollars, will be required to right these wrongs. And that means more than just paying a fee," President Barack Obama said in a statement Thursday before the cameras.
The banks are required to dedicate $20 billion in relief to homeowners, including $10 billion toward reducing principal for struggling borrowers. The banks also must provide $5 billion in cash to federal and state governments to assist their foreclosure relief programs.
About 1 million households at risk of foreclosure should be able to reduce their loans. Another 750,000 Americans who lost their homes to foreclosures will receive about $2,000 each. The banks have three years to distribute the assistance, and the deal will be monitored for compliance.
The five banks that agreed to settle federal and state probes are Bank of America, which is on the hook for the biggest payout, as well as JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells ...