As the states’ attorneys general continue settlement negotiations with large banks accused of foreclosure shenanigans, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is not tipping his hat on what reforms he favors, despite the fact that some of his Republican colleagues are doing so.
The investigation by the AGs was launched in October due to claims about “robo-signing” documents and other allegations of bank malfeasance in handling foreclosures. There has been speculation that if the banks agree to a settlement, they will avoid further investigation and lawsuits by the AGs. Some say a portion of any civil penalties the banks agree to pay could be used to reduce certain homeowners' loans.
According to news reports, the attorneys general submitted a 27-page settlement proposal earlier this month to leaders of the five mega-banks that account for the majority of home-loan servicing in the country. Those banks have been identified as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Ally Financial and Citigroup.
Media outlets have reported that while the proposal doesn't specify monetary penalties, it calls for forcing loan servicers to comply with procedural changes, such as banning companies from initiating foreclosures when a loan modification is pending and notifying borrowers of denied modifications in writing.
But seven Republican attorneys general have spoken out publicly against some of the provisions outlined in that settlement proposal and have sent letters to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, the Democrat leading the investigation. One letter was quoted by Bloomberg as saying that language in the proposal aimed at reducing homeowners’ loans represents a “moral hazard” because it “rewards those who simply choose not to pay their mortgage.”
But Suthers, a Republican, is not joining the chorus.
Mike Saccone, spokesperson for the attorney general, declined to reveal Suthers’ stance on that settlement proposal.
“The term sheet that you’ve seen that was leaked to the media was a starting point,” Saccone told Boulder Weekly. “Unlike some of our peers, we will not discuss ongoing settlement negotiations or vet them in the press.”
He also declined to predict when a settlement with the banks can be expected, saying only that “settlement negotiations are ongoing with the lenders. We’re not going to comment on the process.”
Saccone did say that the attorney general’s office has received 576 consumer complaints about foreclosure procedures since Oct. 1.
In addition, numerous lawsuits accusing banks of mishandling paperwork and engaging in other shifty practices have been filed in Colorado.
Bruce McDonald of Crestone filed suit against OneWest Bank last summer, alleging that the bank was not the holder of his mortgage when it foreclosed on his Crestone home earlier that year. He accused OneWest Bank of a host of possible law violations involving fraud, racketeering, money laundering, robbery and extortion. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch dismissed his lawsuit, but McDonald has vowed to appeal.
Another Crestone resident, Wooddora Eisenhauer, has accused Wells Fargo of forging documents in the foreclosure of her home.
Similarly, Mason Ramsey of Aurora is suing CitiBank, claiming, among other things, that CitiBank forged paperwork and that his loan was never properly transferred to the bank. Ramsey also alleges that the “Rule 120 hearing,” a narrowly tailored court proceeding in which a county judge determines whether to authorize the foreclosure and sale of a property when payments are past due, is unconstitutional because it deprives citizens of due process rights in the 5th and 14th Amendments without providing for appeals.
And in Boulder, Jewl Petteway, owner of Sensorielle Spa, says JPMorgan Chase not only didn’t hold proper title to her Nederland home, but attempted to foreclose on her property in spite of the fact that she was undergoing a loan modification. Petteway, who has taken legal action against the bank as well, tells a horror story of Chase representatives failing to properly apply payments, giving them conflicting information, failing to send required notifications and losing paperwork.
"We've been reading dozens of similar stories online," says her husband, Wesley Davis. "How can they simultaneously pursue foreclosure and modification? Literally every time you talk to somebody, it's a different story, you get different things. … And you get threatened. It's like mafia tactics all the way."
“These banks have gotten away with murder,” says Reuben Nieves, a real estate agent and former paralegal in Sacramento, Calif., whose research formed the basis for Ramsey’s constitutionality claims. “They’ve managed to sneak through like wolves in sheep’s clothing.”