Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is seeking an alternative settlement with banks that respects “the appropriate role of attorneys general,” his office said in a statement today. The settlement could be a model for other states, Pruitt said.
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said he has “significant concerns” about a proposal to reduce loan balances for some homeowners as part of a settlement of a nationwide foreclosure probe, joining at least seven other states that have criticized such a plan.
A deal with the top mortgage servicers in the U.S. that includes writedowns could encourage homeowners who are current on their loans to stop making payments, Olens, a Republican, said today in a telephone interview.
“You’re declaring in advance who the winners and losers are,” Olens said. “I’m a little concerned that this process disengages the normal market forces.”
(Updates with excerpt from letter in fourth paragraph.)
March 22 (Bloomberg) — Four more Republican state attorneys general are opposing a plan to resolve a nationwide probe of foreclosure and mortgage-servicing practices because the terms may foster a “moral hazard.”
In a letter today to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat who has taken the lead in the investigation, the officials objected to new documentation requirements and principal reductions outlined in the proposed settlement submitted to the country’s top mortgage-servicing companies this month.
Attorney General Abbott Charges Home Loan Servicer With Violating State Debt Collection Laws
American Home Mortgage Servicing Inc. failed to properly process requests
AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today charged Coppell-based American Home Mortgage Servicing Inc. (AHMS) with using illegal debt collection tactics and improperly misleading struggling homeowners.
According to state investigators, AHMS collections agents used aggressive and unlawful tactics to collect payments from Texas homeowners who had difficulty meeting their payment obligations. The defendant also failed to credit homeowners who properly submitted their payments on time.
In other cases, AHMS agents falsely claimed that homeowners did not make payments so the agents could justify profitable late fees or escrow accounts. The defendant also failed to properly credit homeowners after AHMS agents withdrew funds from the homeowners’ checking accounts. Because of the defendant’s unlawful conduct, homeowners defaulted on their loans, leading to foreclosure proceedings.
Additionally, the defendant claimed to have a “Home Retention Team” to assist distressed homeowners. Many customers found that AHMS could not qualify homeowners and that they were of no help to halt the foreclosure process. Some homeowners who actually obtained loan modifications found that their monthly payments increased rather than decreased, which worsened their problem with foreclosure.
Today’s enforcement action charges AHMS with multiple violations of the Texas Debt Collection Act and the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). The State is also seeking civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation of the DTPA.
Successor plaintiff AHMSI is one of several companies controlled by billionaire investor Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. through his firm, W. L. Ross & Company. Louise Story, in her April 4, 2008 New York Times article, “Investors Stalk the Wounded of Wall Street,” described Mr. Ross as “a dean of vulture investing.” She wrote:
Almost two centuries ago, as Napoleon marched on Waterloo, a scion of the Rothschilds is said to have declared: The time to buy is when blood is running in the streets.
Now as red ink runs on Wall Street, the figurative heirs of the Rothschilds — bankers, traders, hedge fund gurus and takeover artists — are plotting to profit from today’s financial upheaval. These market opportunists — vulture investors in the Wall Street term — have begun to swoop. They are buying up mortgages of hard-pressed homeowners, the bank loans of cash-short businesses, and companies that seem to be hurtling to bankruptcy. And they are trying to buy them all on the cheap. . . .
“The only time you really know you’ve reached the bottom is when you’re back on the other side and things are going back up,” said Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., a dean of vulture investors, who made a fortune buying steel companies when no one else seemed to want them.
Such caution aside, his firm, W. L. Ross & Company, recently spent $2.6 billion for two mortgage servicers [AHMSI and Option One] and a bond insurance company. He said he planned to buy more as hedge funds and other investor sell at bargain prices.