DOJ settles with BofA and Saxon over SCRA foreclosure violations
Bank of America (BAC) and Saxon Mortgage will pay more than $22 million to resolve allegations that they wrongfully foreclosed on active duty military servicemembers, the Department of Justice said Thursday. Under the BofA settlement, BofA subsidiary BAC Home Loans Servicing, formerly Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, will pay $20 million to resolve a lawsuit alleging that Countrywide foreclosed on approximately 160 servicemembers between January 2006 and May 2009 without court orders and in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Countrywide also agreed to pay any servicemember wrongfully foreclosed in the period from June 2009 through 2010. The DOJ alleged that Countrywide did not consistently check the military status of borrowers on whom it foreclosed through at least May 31, 2009. Saxon Mortgage Services, a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley (MS), will pay $2.35 million to resolve a lawsuit alleging that Saxon foreclosed on approximately 17 servicemembers between January 2006 and June 2009 without court orders. The DOJ made public its investigation in March. Saxon agreed to pay any servicemember wrongfully foreclosed in the period from July 2009 through 2010. The DOJ also alleged that Saxon failed to consistently or accurately check the military status of borrowers on whom it foreclosed through at least June 30, 2009. "With the numerous sacrifices our servicemembers make while they are serving our country, the last thing they need to worry about is whether or not their families will be forced from their homes," said James T. Jacks, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, where the Saxon case was filed. "These lenders’ callous disregard for the SCRA, a law which was designed to insulate these patriots from unlawful foreclosures." Both companies will set up settlement funds to compensate servicemembers. Several mortgage lenders have already come under scrutiny for ill-treating military families. In January, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) admitted to overcharging roughly 4,000 troops on their mortgage and improperly foreclosing on 14 of those families. Earlier this year, firm began offering a variety of mortgage assistance programs for military personnel and pledged not to foreclose on any service member on active duty. BofA also introduced programs recently that offer mortgage assistance to American military servicemembers beyond active duty. Wells Fargo (WFC) said it was refunding about $10 million to veterans to settle a class-action lawsuit that alleged the bank overcharged on most closing costs associated with title services. The settlement funds, announced in February, will be disbursed between roughly 60,000 veterans who refinanced between Jan. 20, 2004 and Oct. 7, 2010. Write to Kerry Curry.