Oregon Department of Justice | Frequently Asked Questions About The Multistate Settlement

Who are the parties to this settlement?

Attorneys General from participating states, state and federal banking regulators, and the nation’s five largest loan servicers: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Ally Financial have agreed to the terms of a comprehensive settlement agreement.

Only named parties are subject to the agreement, which means that the states are free to pursue action against third parties, such as the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) and many other financial institutions.

The settlement does not in any way affect the rights of any private individuals or entities such as state and local pension funds to pursue their own claims for relief.

What does the multistate settlement do?

Although there is more information to come, the terms of the multistate agreement include, for eligible borrowers:

  • Principal reduction;
  • Enhanced opportunities to refinance or modify a loan;
  • Payments to certain borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure;
  • Payments to participating states to fund foreclosure prevention programs;
  • Nationwide servicing standards; and
  • Enforcement provisions with strict penalties to ensure compliance.

Some people are saying there hasn’t been a full investigation. How do we know this isn’t a quick “out” for the banks?

Oregon has been actively involved in the multistate investigation leading to this settlement since October of 2010. The states and the federal government have spent countless hours investigating the servicing industry, consulting with industry experts, crafting the settlement and negotiating with servicers. Delaying a resolution of this investigation would unnecessarily delay bringing relief to Oregon homeowners who need help now.

Why aren’t you pursuing a criminal investigation of servicers?

The multistate investigation at issue has always been a civil investigation and does not include any terms related to criminal activity.

The Oregon Attorney General’s enforcement authority over the mortgage lending industry primarily falls under state consumer protection law, which gives him authority to pursue civil violations.

Oregon will fully support efforts by the new task force announced by the Obama Administration and chaired by the New York Attorney General to investigate and prosecute crimes associated with the national housing crisis.

Will the settlement provide immunity from criminal prosecution?

No. Immunity is a term used to describe protection from prosecution given to a criminal defendant, normally in exchange for testimony against a co-defendant, and has been misused in some media articles about a potential settlement. This settlement includes only civil claims and does not prevent future prosecution of servicers or lenders that engaged in any type of crime.

How can the Attorney General support an agreement that does not fully account for the unprecedented harm caused by the banks’ misconduct?

The breadth and complexity of issues posed by the national mortgage crisis is staggering. There is no court in the country and no state law that would allow the attorney general to hold banks legally responsible for all the damage that has been done to our economy. We are all frustrated and angry over the devastation that the foreclosure crisis caused for so many Oregonians.

The multistate settlement will help millions of homeowners who need assistance right now without sacrificing future opportunities to fix a broken system. The settlement is only one of many steps towards a comprehensive solution.

How do we know the banks will do what they promise under the settlement? Is this just another Wall Street “bail out”?

An independent monitor will supervise the principal reductions, refinancing and interest rate reductions, forbearance agreements, and other assistance the banks must provide to borrowers. In addition, once this settlement is approved by a federal court judge it will have the power of a federal court order. If the banks fail in their commitments, they face substantial penalties and the Attorneys General retain the right to sue to enforce the settlement.

Where can I get more information about how this settlement will benefit Oregon homeowners?

Distressed homeowners and Oregonians who have gone through the foreclosure process may be entitled to additional assistance if their mortgage servicer is a party to the multistate settlement.

There are many details that still need ironing out. In the very near future servicers who are subject to the agreement will set up a toll-free number and a website for people to inquire about their eligibility for benefits. If you would like to receive updates as additional information becomes available please sign up at www.oregonattorneygeneral.gov/homeowners.

SOURCE: http://www.doj.state.or.us