Senator Elizabeth Warren is again championing average Americans by trying to hold the banking industry accountable. This time her target is illegal foreclosures. Since Senator Warren has joined the Senate Banking Committee she has made waves with her sharp criticism of government regulators tasked with controlling the nations banking system. She quizzed Securities and Exchange Commission chairwoman Elisse Walter about why no banks were taken to trial after the 2008 financial collapse. She also grilled Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke over policies that promote financial institutions that are too big to fail.
This past week Daniel Stipano, deputy chief counsel of the office of Comptroller of the Currency and Richard Ashton, deputy general counsel for the Board of Governers of the Federal Reserve, were in her sights. They both testified before a Banking Committee subcommittee last Thursday at a hearing on the role of independent consultants. Warren criticized both men for not providing information to Congress or to homeowners about illegal foreclosures in order to help the homeowners receive compensation. Warren said in an interview last Friday, ” I think the question that we put to the regulators is whether they were there to help to protect banks or help to protect families that had been victims of illegal foreclosure practices. I was not satisfied with the answers and we’re going to stay after them.”
The Federal government is offering financial aid to help people whose homes were illegally foreclosed. But the assistance doesn’t arduous to much. This is part of a $25 billion National Mortgage settlement reached between banks, the Federal government and attorneys general across the nation. The program applies to borrowers foreclosed one by Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JOMorgan Chase and WellsFargo, the nations 5 largest mortgage servicers. The payments could be as low as $840 per homeowner, could be higher, depending on the number of borrowers who participate. Jeff Genres, managing attorney for the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, called the settlement rough justice. Adding that it is not compensation for taking your home, it is compensation for the banks committing a crime on the courts.
On January 31 Senator Warren and Representative Elijah E Cummings requested documents detailing what a review found, such as the number of improper foreclosures, the amount of inflated fees or the extent of abusive practices by each service. The regulators staff refused to provide any documents that would identify wrongdoing by any specific bank. It would be very surprising indeed if mortgage servicing companies argued that their ability to engage in illegal foreclosures and charge inflated fees is a commercially viable plan derived from corporate innovation. The letter also points out that agencies have clear regulatory discretion to provide members of Congress with documents and that agencies could protect against a potential waiver by sending a simple cover letter, as other agencies have done routinely.
President Obama should be behind Senator Warren and Representative Cummings all the way. Democrats should be jumping on board and trying to get Republicans to do the same. The banks almost crippled us economically and made billions after the fact. It is time for them to pay up.
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