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Federal Reserve expected to claim no homes have been wrongfully foreclosed

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, March 11, 2011 16:16 EDT
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Can you justify putting a family out on the streets?

What about millions of families?

According to remarks at a recent public meeting, the Federal Reserve is preparing to do just that.

In a recent meeting of the Fed’s Consumer Advisory Council, the nation’s central bank came under intense criticism by consumer advocates for an upcoming report that’s expected to claim that after an investigation, they’ve determined that no wrongful foreclosures have been carried out by US banks.

Huffington Post reporter Shahien Nasiripour was at the meeting and caught a number of key remarks, namely council members attacking how the Fed’s investigators had defined what a wrongful foreclosure is.

According to Nasiripour, they defined it as a foreclosure which happens when a home owner is not significantly behind on payments — leaving out a litany of other situations and acts that consumer advocates call criminal behavior.

Nasiripour noted that the Fed’s conclusions were basically the same as the banking industry’s: that despite some sloppy workshopping of the foreclosure process, homeowners who’ve been tossed out were by and large vastly behind on payments.

Of course, to people who’ve actually lost their homes, wrongfully or not, the findings of this report might prove offensive.

That’s largely due to the thousands of foreclosure horror stories that have flooded the American public as the Bush administration’s financial crisis has continued to amplify economic difficulties across the world.

But it’s not just the painful stories of foreclosure that may galvanize vocal opposition to the Fed’s claims: it’s also the details of those sloppy foreclosure workshops that seem to be brushed over in these findings.

According to sworn statements released last year by the Florida Attorney General’s office, one of the state’s “foreclosure mills” bribed employees with jewelry, cars and houses to forge and alter documents required by courts conducting foreclosure proceedings.

In some cases, random people were brought in and given titles like “foreclosure expert,” even when they had no background in the financial industries. Employees came from places like factory assembly lines, Walmart or salons, and they were used to gin up as many foreclosure documents as possible.

The discovery of this practice, known as “robo-signing,” was a key revelation in the lead-up to an investigation launched by all 50 state Attorneys General, looking into foreclosure fraud on part of the financial institutions. Banks that were involved in robo-signing included GMAC, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

A settlement for this situation, proposed by the Obama administration, would see the banks create a $20 billion fund to underwrite underwater mortgages, then create their own mortgage modification programs supported by the money set aside.

Thanks to the increased scrutiny of their practices, Lenders have in recent months slowed foreclosure activity and in some cases paused it altogether.

February 2011 reportedly saw the least number of foreclosures out of any point during the last 36 months, with just 255,101 structures receiving foreclosure notices, representing a 14 percent decline from January.

Read Nasiripour’s full report here.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
 
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