More evidence has come to light of Countrywide’s fraud and misconduct during the height of the real estate boom. Federal charges were brought against Bank of America, who acquired Countrywide nearly two years ago, alleging fraud, insider trading, and a host of other unethical activities.
In an effort to address the federal charges, Bank of America agreed to pay $108 million to settle the various federal charges brought against Countrywide. The settlement was announced by the Federal Trade Commission, and the settlement is intended to refund money to approximately 200,000 borrowers. This is the largest mortgage industry settlement for the Federal Trade Commission and its history.
The Federal Trade Commission’s chairman, Jon Leibowitz, accused Countrywide of “callous conduct, which took advantage of consumers already at the end of their financial rope.” Countrywide’s unethical practices included requiring borrowers who were already late on their mortgage payments to pay additional fees of several thousand dollars at a time. In other words, Countrywide collected several thousands of dollars from many borrowers on the brink of foreclosure, and economic collapse.
Not only did Countrywide profit from making extremely risky loans during the height of the real estate boom, but they also attempted to cash in during the down time by taking advantage of the same individuals that they had lured into taking risky mortgages just a few years before they fell behind. So Countrywide profited by making risky loans, and then again by securing additional payment from borrowers who were overburdened by those loans.
Indeed, Countrywide was doing very little to prevent many foreclosures in large part because of the fees that they were securing from individuals on the brink of foreclosure. In short, it became more profitable for Countrywide to allow certain individuals to actually fall into foreclosure rather than help the struggling borrowers save their home. Often times, these default fees of several thousand dollars were significant barriers to loan modifications.
This is just another example of the ongoing mortgage crisis which has taken hold in South Florida. If you are on the brink of foreclosure, and need to assess your legal rights, please contact our office today.