Ohio-based Watchdog Group Zeroes in on JPMorgan Chase

A new consumer watchdog group funded by North America’s largest union organizer said Thursday that it believes JPMorgan Chase is responsible for more than twice its share of home mortgage foreclosures in Franklin County, Ohio. According to research the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents 1.8 million union members in the healthcare, property and public service sectors, JPMorgan Chase accounts for 1 in 12 home mortgage foreclosures in Franklin County, Ohio — more than twice the bank’s share of home loans in the market. Although defaults on sub-prime mortgage loans are fueling a foreclosure crisis from coast to coast, Ohio leads the nation with the highest rate of foreclosures overall. In Franklin County, the foreclosure rate is twice the state average, and in turn the consumer group alleged that JPMorgan Chase’s foreclosure rate is twice as bad as the countywide average.

The SEIU study also claims that JPMorgan Chase was associated with 1 in 10 homes going to sheriff sale in 2006 alone; the group said that their data suggested that relative to other lending institutions in the county, the bank may be doing less to help mortgage customers in danger of losing their homes. “This report raises some important issues that need to be looked at,” said Ohio State House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty. Among the study’s most significant findings is that foreclosures by JPMorgan Chase have a broader “spillover” impact on homeowners who do not default on their loans. In 2006, JPMorgan Chase cost Franklin County homeowners $15.7 million due to depreciation in the value of houses surrounding properties foreclosed by the bank, the report alleged. Meanwhile, echoing other consumer groups weighing in on the subprime problem, the SEIU study claimed that the spillover effect from home value depreciation had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, as homeowners in areas most affected by JPMorgan Chase’s foreclosures were low-income and people of color. The study analyzing JPMorgan Chase’s high rate of home mortgage foreclosures is the latest development in growing consumer and regulatory interest in subprime lending and foreclosures. In Ohio, Governor Ted Strickland recently formed the Foreclosure Prevention Task Force committed to work with families facing foreclosure to amend their debts, while other state officials including Ohio State Treasurer Richard Cordray and State Attorney General Marc Dann have expressed concerns of their own. One of Ohio’s largest banks, JPMorgan Chase is the third largest bank in the United States, with $1.4 trillion in assets and more than 8 million banking customers around the country. Nationally, JPMorgan Chase originated nearly $200 billion in home mortgages in 2005, nearly $277 million in Franklin County alone. Chase Home Finance, the company’s sub-prime lending arm, was the third-largest overall mortgage lender in central Ohio in 2006.

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