Banks Behaving Badly

Banks Behaving Badly May 19, 2012

Banks are large and powerful. And many politicians want banks to be subject to less regulation, oversight and democratic accountability.

Megan O’Matz & John Maines: “Neighborhoods crumble as thousands of homes sit in legal limbo

Banks that made reckless home loans have been tiptoeing away from foreclosures in a tactic designed to cut their losses. The result: Orphaned, dilapidated homes dot the landscape from Kendall to Lake Worth.

… A months-long Sun Sentinel investigation of property code violations involving abandoned homes uncovered case after case in which banks launched foreclosure lawsuits but then stalled or avoided taking ownership. In effect, the banks legally sidestepped responsibility for the empty homes, causing great harm to neighborhoods.

The real estate industry calls such properties “bank walkaways.” They are no longer maintained by their legal owners, whether they were investors bailing out of unwise deals or families in financial ruin who decamped.

Bloomberg News: “Look Who’s Pushing Homeowners Off the Foreclosure Cliff

One of the more confounding aspects of the U.S. housing crisis has been the reluctance of lenders to do more to assist troubled borrowers. After all, when homes go into foreclosure, banks lose money.

Now it turns out some lenders haven’t merely been unhelpful; their actions have pushed some borrowers over the foreclosure cliff. Lenders have been imposing exorbitant insurance policies on homeowners whose regular coverage lapses or is deemed insufficient.

Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Ben Protess: “Chasing Fees, Banks Court Low-Income Customers

An increasing number of the nation’s large banks — U.S. Bank, Regions Financial and Wells Fargo among them — are aggressively courting low-income customers … with alternative products that can carry high fees. They are rapidly expanding these offerings partly because the products were largely untouched by recent financial regulations, and also to recoup the billions in lost income from recent limits on debit and credit card fees.

Banks say that they are offering a valuable service for customers who might not otherwise have access to traditional banking and that they can offer these products at competitive prices. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a new federal agency, said it was examining whether banks ran afoul of consumer protection laws in the marketing of these products.

In the push for these customers, banks often have an advantage over payday loan companies and other storefront lenders because, even though banks are regulated, they typically are not subject to interest rate limits on payday loans and other alternative products.

See also:

Sarah Jaffe: “How Occupy Wall Street Plans to Take Down Bank of America — and How You Can Help

Dave Johnson: “Wells Fargo Has Blood on Its Hands: Desperate Man Commits Suicide After Shocking Foreclosure Mistreatment

Glenn Greenwald: “Wells Fargo’s prison cash cow

Yves Smith: “Judge Rules Wells Fargo Engages in ‘Reprehensible,’ Systemic Accounting Abuses on Mortgages

Michael J. De La Merced: “Ally’s Mortgage Unit, ResCap, Files for Bankruptcy

Chris Morran: “How a $10 Overdraft Fee Spiraled Into $1,555 in ‘Debt’ to Wells Fargo;” “Bank of America Tells Family It Won’t Foreclose, Tries to Foreclose Anyway;” “Report: Banks Treat Foreclosed Homes Better in Mostly White Neighborhoods;” “Fed Orders Review of Thousands of Morgan Stanley Foreclosures;” “Wells Fargo Prepping for Possible Racial Discrimination Lawsuit;” “Wells Fargo Has Been Billing Me for ‘Credit Defense’ Program I Never Signed up For.”

Mary Beth Quirk: “Disabled Woman Protesting Foreclosure Arrested Outside Home of Wells Fargo CFO;” “78-Year-Old Woman Forced to Leave House She & Her Husband Built in 1956.”

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