Economics Editor, AlterNet; Fellow, Campaign for America’s Future
Despite escalating outrage over rampant foreclosure fraud, the Federal Reserve now appears ready to eviscerate a key mortgage regulation in an effort to spare banks the losses from their own wrongdoing. Even as bank executives preposterously claim to have wronged nobody in the foreclosure process, they’re pushing hard to unwind the only serious federal rule that protects borrowers from predatory loans and improper foreclosures. As if the last decade of abuse wasn’t bad enough, banks are once again mobilizing to screw borrowers in the pursuit of epic bonuses. And once again, it appears that the Federal Reserve has become an accomplice to this nationwide mortgage scam.
This week, top mortgage officers from the nation’s largest banks are telling the Senate Banking Committee that they aren’t kicking the wrong people out of their homes. This is simply false. Problems at mortgage servicers have been going on for years, long before banks got into trouble for illegally robo-signing foreclosure documents. People are kicked out of their homes without cause in the United States every day. If the top executives at America’s largest banks don’t know this fact, they lack the competence needed to run their organizations.
Law firms that work with troubled borrowers are jam-packed with horror stories about foreclosures caused entirely by banks, not borrowers. Families who never miss a payment come home to an eviction notice, or a thug breaking down their door.
But it’s even more common for borrowers to find themselves in trouble because their bank engaged in blatantly predatory lending. There is only one serious federal remedy for predatory lending, and the Fed is now knowingly trying to gut that remedy in order to help banks avoid losses from their own fraud. The remedy is called rescission, and it works like this:
If a bank failed to make key consumer protection disclosures about a mortgage, the borrower can demand that all of the interest and closing costs on the loan be refunded. Equally important, the bank must also stop all foreclosure proceedings and give up its right to foreclose. Once the bank gives up its right to foreclose, the full amount of the mortgage, minus interest and closing costs, becomes due. This isn’t a free lunch for the borrower, especially when the value of her home has declined dramatically, but it’s better than nothing, and it does impose real costs on banks. (more…)