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Friday, October 8, 2010

BofA halts foreclosure sales in 50 states

Bank of America halts foreclosure sales in 50 states amid expanding furor over document errors 

On Friday October 8, 2010, 1:10 pm
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Potential flaws in foreclosure documents are threatening to throw the real estate industry into a full-blown crisis, as Bank of America on Friday became the first bank to stop sales of foreclosed homes in all 50 states.
The move, along with another decision on foreclosures by PNC Financial Services Inc., adds to growing concerns that mortgage lenders have been evicting homeowners using flawed court papers.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America Corp., the nation's largest bank, said Friday it would stop sales of foreclosed homes in all 50 states as it reviews documents used to process foreclosures. A week earlier, the company had said it would only stop such sales in the 23 states where foreclosures must be approved by a judge.
"We will stop foreclosure sales until our assessment has been satisfactorily completed," company spokesman Dan Frahm said in a statement. "Our ongoing assessment shows the basis for our past foreclosure decisions is accurate."
Bank of America did not disclose how many homeowners would be affected.
State and federal officials have been ramping up pressure on the mortgage industry over worries about potential legal violations amid growing evidence that mortgage company employees or their lawyers signed documents in foreclosure cases without verifying the information in them. Also Friday, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said he would hold a hearing on the issue next month.
"American families should not have to worry about losing their homes to sloppy bureaucratic mismanagement or fraud," Dodd said. "Regulators at the federal, state, and local levels have a responsibility to uphold the law and protect consumers from unfair foreclosure, and lenders have a duty to not cut corners around the law."
A document obtained last week by the Associated Press showed a Bank of America official acknowledging in a legal proceeding that she signed thousands of foreclosure documents a month and typically didn't read them. The official, Renee Hertzler, said in a February deposition that she signed 7,000 to 8,000 foreclosure documents a month.
Earlier in the week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urged five large mortgage lenders to suspend foreclosures in Nevada until they have set up systems to make sure homeowners aren't "improperly directed into foreclosure proceedings." Nevada is not among the states where banks had suspended foreclosures.
Also Friday, PNC Financial Services Group Inc. said it is halting most foreclosures and evictions in 23 states for a month so it can review whether documents it submitted to courts complied with state laws. An official at the Pittsburgh-based bank confirmed the decision on Friday, which was reported earlier by the New York Times. The official requested anonymity because the decision hasn't been publicly announced.
PNC becomes the fourth major U.S. lender to halt some foreclosures amid evidence that mortgage company employees or their lawyers signed documents in foreclosure cases without verifying the information in them.
In addition to PNC and Bank of America, Ally Financial's GMAC Mortgage unit and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have announced similar moves in the past two weeks.
In some states, lenders can foreclose quickly on delinquent mortgage borrowers. By contrast, the 23 states use a lengthy court process. They require documents to verify information on the mortgage, including who owns it.

Growing furor... BofA halts foreclosures in all 50 U.S. states

On Friday October 8, 2010, 1:26 pm
By Joe Rauch
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp expanded on Friday its suspension of foreclosures to include all 50 U.S. states as anger grows at how lenders have prepared documents to support evictions.
BofA, the largest U.S. mortgage servicer, is the first U.S. bank to institute a nationwide moratorium on foreclosures.
Previously, like Ally Financial's GMAC Mortgage and JPMorgan Chase, BofA had halted foreclosures in the 23 states that have judicial foreclosure proceedings.
The U.S. Senate Banking Committee announced on Friday it would hold a hearing November 16 into the foreclosure furor that includes disclosures that some big U.S. mortgage processors filed false affidavits in thousands of cases.
The nationwide Bank of America halt on foreclosures will take effect on Saturday and also includes sales of foreclosed property.
Bank of America spokesman Dan Frahm did not give a specific timeline for how long the halt will remain in place, but described the review as lasting for weeks, rather than months.
"We will stop foreclosure sales until our assessment has been satisfactorily completed," he said. "Our ongoing assessment shows the basis for our past foreclosure decisions is accurate."
Frahm said the company is reviewing its entire foreclosure process, but is focusing on the validation of signatures on foreclosure documents.
Critics, including prominent congressional leaders, contend that banks' use of "robo-signers" and other automated processes is unfairly pushing residents out of their homes.
Bank of America will continue to track late payments and pursue delinquent borrowers but will stop short of foreclosure on those mortgages held on its books -- about 20 percent of the home loans it services.
Frahm said the average foreclosed borrower has not made a payment in 18 months. He declined to disclose how many foreclosures would be affected by the move.
Spokesmen for JPMorgan and Wells Fargo & Co -- two other major U.S. mortgage servicers -- declined to comment.
On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama refused to sign proposed legislation that would have made it more difficult for homeowners to challenge documents in a foreclosure.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called on Friday for other banks to join Bank of America in a nationwide foreclosure moratorium.
Reid, a Nevada Democrat facing a tough re-election campaign, called on Thursday for banks to suspend foreclosures in his state, one of the hardest hit by the housing crisis.
Bank of America became the largest U.S. mortgage servicer after purchasing Countrywide in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis.
At the time, California-based Countrywide was mired in high levels of soured subprime mortgages.
(Reporting by Joe Rauch; editing by John Wallace and Tim Dobbyn)

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