Report Blames Big Banks For 800,000 Preventable Foreclosures

The Obama administration’s primary program to tackle the housing crisis and help homeowners who were facing foreclosure, the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), fell far short of its goals. But a new report from the Federal Reserve of Chicago, the federal government, and multiple universities blamed the nation’s biggest banks for the program’s shortcomings.

According to the report — from Ohio State University, Columbia Business School, the University of Chicago, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Federal Reserve of Chicago — big banks could have prevented an additional 800,000 foreclosures had they been better equipped to administer the federal modification program, ProPublica reports:

But while evidence of these problems was pervasive, it was always hard to quantify the damage. Just how many more people could have qualified under the administration’s mortgage modification program if the banks had done a better job? In other words, how many people have been pushed toward foreclosure unnecessarily?

A thorough study released last week provides one number, and it’s a big one: about 800,000 homeowners. […]

Unfortunately for homeowners, most mortgages are handled by banks that haven’t been properly staffed and thus have modified far fewer loans. If these worse-performing banks had simply modified loans at the same pace as their better performing peers, then HAMP would have produced about 800,000 more modifications. Instead of about 1.2 million modifications by the end of this year, HAMP would have resulted in about 2 million.

The report largely blamed poor training and poor staffing at the large banks for the shortcoming. A separate report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development earlier this year found that banks were using underqualified workers to process foreclosure documents, promoting untrained employees to the vice presidential level so they could approve foreclosures. At Wells Fargo, one employee processing foreclosures came to the bank from a previous job at a pizza restaurant.


Though the report does not cite which servicers fell short of expectations, it cites “a few large servicers,” hinting that the nation’s biggest banks were the main culprits, speculation backed up by recent reports that Bank of America has failed to offer any mortgage relief under the terms of the recent foreclosure fraud settlement it and other large banks reached with the federal government and state attorneys general.