In February 2012, 49 state attorneys general (except Oklahoma) and the Federal Government announced the largest consumer financial protection settlement in U.S. history with the country’s five largest loan servicers, known as the National Mortgage Settlement:
The five servicers will provide at least $25 billion in consumer relief to distressed borrowers and directs payments to states and the Federal Government.
The agreement settles state and Federal investigations finding that the country’s five largest loan servicers routinely signed foreclosure related documents outside the presence of a notary public and without really knowing whether the facts they contained were correct. Both of these practices violate the law. The settlement provides benefits to borrowers whose loans are owned by the settling banks as well as to many of the borrowers whose loans they service.*
*Borrowers from Oklahoma will not be eligible for any of the relief directly to homeowners because Oklahoma elected not to join the settlement.
As stated in the Settlement Fact Sheet, the money in the settlement will be distributed in several ways:
FINANCIAL RELIEF FOR HOMEOWNERS:
The servicers will be required to dedicate $20 billion to various forms of relief to borrowers.
- Principal reduction. At least $10 billion will be dedicated to reducing principal for borrowers who, as of the date of the settlement, owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth and are either delinquent or at imminent risk of default.
- Refinancing. At least $3 billion will be dedicated to a refinancing program for borrowers who are current on their mortgages but who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. All borrowers who meet basic eligibility criteria will be eligible for the refinancing, which will reduce interest rates for borrowers who are currently paying much higher rates or whose adjustable rate mortgages are due to soon rise to much higher rates.
- Other forms of relief. Servicers will be required to dedicate up to $7 billion to other forms of relief, including forbearance of principal for unemployed borrowers, anti-blight programs, short sales and transitional assistance, benefits for service members who are forced to sell their homes at a loss as a result of a Permanent Change in Station, and other programs.
To encourage servicers to provide relief quickly, there are incentives for relief provided within the first 12 months – and additional cash payments required for any servicer that fails to meet its obligation within three years. Servicers will receive only partial credit for every dollar spent on some of the required activities, so the settlement will provide direct benefits to borrowers in excess of $20 billion.
PAYMENTS TO STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS:
In addition to the $20 billion of financial relief for homeowners, the servicers will make $5 billion in cash payments to the states and the Federal Government. Of the $5 billion:
- Payments to Foreclosed Borrowers. Through the settlement, a $1.5 billion Borrower Payment Fund will be established to provide cash payments to borrowers whose homes were sold or taken in foreclosure between and including Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2011, and who meet other criteria. This program is distinct from, but complimentary to, the restitution program currently being administered by Federal banking regulators to compensate those who suffered direct financial harm as a result of wrongful servicer conduct.
- State and Federal payments. The remaining funds of $3.5 billion will go to state and Federal Governments to be used to repay public funds lost as a result of servicer misconduct, fund housing counselors, legal aid, and other similar purposes determined by state attorneys general. The funds coming to the Federal Government will primarily be allocated to the FHA Capital Reserve Account, with portions also going to the Veterans Housing Benefit Program Fund and to the Rural Housing Service.
FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS OF INDIVIDUAL SERVICERS: