In late 2010, Arizona launched an investigation into Bank of America, alleging that the bank misled homeowners who were seeking mortgage modifications. Arizona’s attorney general claims that Bank of America “repeatedly has deceived” borrowers looking to lower their monthly payments.
According to BusinessWeek, Bank of America is fighting back by giving loan modifications to borrowers who have made complaints. The catch is that, in return for the modification, the borrower must agree to stay silent and expunge any previous criticisms of the bank from his or her public record:
Bank of America Corp. is impeding an investigation of its loan modification practices by negotiating settlements with borrowers who must agree to keep them secret and not criticize the bank in exchange for cash payments and loan relief, Arizona officials say. [...]
One 2011 accord involving a borrower facing foreclosure who defaulted on a $253,142 mortgage included a $5,000 payment, plus $7,500 for legal fees, and the defaulted payments were waived and the loan was modified to a 40-year term with a 2 percent interest rate, court documents show. The terms of the original loan and the borrower’s complaint about the lender weren’t described in the documents.
The borrower “will remove and delete any online statements regarding this dispute, including, without limitation, postings on Facebook, Twitter and similar websites,” and not make any statements “that defame, disparage or in any way criticize” the bank’s reputation, practices or conduct, according to documents filed in state court in Phoenix.
This isn’t the first time that Bank of America has been accused of obstructing an investigation into its mortgage practices. Back in June of 2011, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s inspector general claimed that the bank was blocking access to employees and data in order to slow down an investigation into its alleged misdeeds. “Our review was significantly hindered by Bank of America’s reluctance to allow us to interview employees or provide data and information in a timely manner,” said HUD’s William Nixon.
Now, if the Arizona officials’ claims are true, Bank of America has gone from obstruction to explicit payoffs in order to keep its mortgage mess under wraps. (HT: Naked Capitalism)