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Attorney General Brown Announces Landmark $8.68 Billion Settlement with Countrywide
Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced a landmark, multi-state settlement with Countrywide Home Loans, Countrywide Financial Corporation and Full Spectrum Lending that is expected to provide up to $8.68 billion of home loan and foreclosure relief nationally, including $3.5 billion to California borrowers.
“With this settlement, homeowners will receive direct relief from the catastrophic damage caused by Countrywide,” said Attorney General Brown. “Countrywide’s lending practices turned the American dream into a nightmare for tens of thousands of families by putting them into loans they couldn’t understand and ultimately couldn’t afford.”
The Countrywide settlement will likely become the largest predatory lending settlement in history, dwarfing the nationwide $484 million settlement with Household Finance Corporation in 2002, under which California received approximately $91 million.
The settlement marks a swift resolution of the Attorney General’s June 30, 2008 lawsuit alleging that Countrywide, the nation’s largest mortgage lender prior to its July 2008 acquisition by Bank of America, deceived borrowers by misrepresenting loan terms, loan payment increases, and borrowers’ ability to afford loans.
In a nutshell, this settlement will enable eligible subprime and pay-option mortgage borrowers to avoid foreclosure by obtaining a modified and affordable loan. The loans covered by the settlement are among the riskiest and highest defaulting loans at the center of America’s foreclosure crisis. Assuming every eligible borrower and investor participates, this loan modification program will provide up to $3.5 billion to California borrowers as follows:
• Suspension of foreclosures for eligible borrowers with subprime and pay-option adjustable rate loans pending determination of borrower ability to afford loan modifications;
• Loan modifications valued at up to $3.4 billion worth of reduced interest payments and, for certain borrowers, reduction of their principal balances;
• Waiver of late fees of up to $33.6 million;
• Waiver of prepayment penalties of up to $25.6 million for borrowers who receive modifications, pay off, or refinance their loans;
• $27.9 million in payments to borrowers who are 120 or more days delinquent or whose homes have already been foreclosed; and
• Approximately $25.2 million in additional payments to borrowers who, in the future, cannot afford monthly payments under the loan modification program and lose their homes to foreclosure.
More specifically, the modification program covers subprime and pay-option adjustable-rate mortgage loans in which the borrower’s first payment was due between January 1, 2004 and December 31, 2007. The program will be available for loans in default that are secured by owner-occupied property and serviced by Countrywide Financial or one of its affiliates. In addition, the borrower’s loan balance must be 75% or more of the current value of the home, and the borrower must be able to afford adjusted monthly payments under the terms of the modification.
The terms of the modification will vary based on the type of loan, including:
• “Pay-option ARM loans,” in which loan balances increase each month if a borrower makes only a minimum payment. Borrowers may be eligible to have their principal reduced to 95% of their home’s current value and may also qualify for an interest-rate reduction or conversion to an interest-only payment.
• Subprime adjustable-rate loans, such as 2/28 loans. Borrowers may have their interest rate reduced to the initial rate. If the borrower still cannot afford it, the borrower may be eligible for further interest-rate reductions to as low as 3.5%.
• Subprime fixed loans. Borrowers may be eligible for interest-rate reductions.
• “Hope for Homeowners Program.” If they qualify, some borrowers may be placed in loans made through this federal program.
• Alt-A and prime loans. Borrowers who are in default, but have Alt-A and prime loans, may also be considered for modifications, depending on circumstances.
In addition to the settlement’s direct relief to borrowers, Bank of America, who negotiated the settlement with the Attorney General following its acquisition of Countrywide, has agreed that it will suspend offering, under its own name or through Countrywide, subprime loans or loans that can negatively amortize. The bank has significantly restricted the circumstances under which it will make so-called “no doc” or low-documentation loans, in which borrowers do not fully document their ability to repay their mortgages.
In addition to California, attorneys general in 10 states, including Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington, are participating in the settlement. Attorney General Brown’s office, along with the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, led the negotiations for the states. The Countrywide parties to the settlement include parent Countrywide Financial Corporation, Countrywide Home Loans and Full Spectrum Lending.
Attorney General Brown added, “Unlike last week’s congressional bailout, this loan-modification program provides real relief for borrowers at risk of losing their homes. Tragically, California and the other states have had to step in because federal authorities shamelessly failed to even minimally regulate mortgage lending.”
The settlement does not include Angelo Mozilo, the former Chairman and Chief Executive of Countrywide Financial Corporation or David Sambol, formerly the President of Countrywide Home Loans and the President and Chief Operating Officer of Countrywide Financial Corporation. Brown will continue to prosecute his case against Mozilo and Sambol.
The signed stipulated judgment and injunction is attached.