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On the forefront of the biggest settlements of our time

An inside look from the Florida Attorney General

As a state attorney general, I work every day to protect consumers from fraudulent and deceptive business practices. The $25 billion landmark National Mortgage Settlement with the nation's five largest mortgage servicers over foreclosure abuses and unacceptable nationwide mortgage servicing practices has been one of the most significant civil settlements of our time—second only to the tobacco settlement.

My office was on the forefront of negotiating the terms of the settlement, and we have remained relentless in our efforts to ensure compliance by Bank of America, Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Ally/GMAC. From our role on the negotiating committee to our current role on the National Mortgage Settlement Monitoring Committee, our goal has been straightforward—to protect homeowners by providing necessary financial relief and by reforming the mortgage servicing industry.

The settlement announcement in February 2012 was a significant milestone in the continuum of our efforts to protect homeowners and reform the mortgage servicing industry. At the time of the announcement, we achieved an estimated $8 billion in relief for Floridians and a comprehensive reformation of mortgage servicing practices intended to protect homeowners. Since then, we have continued to work proactively to protect homeowners through constant communication with both the banks and homeowners to ensure the banks’ compliance with the settlement.

Recognizing the need to assist distressed homeowners quickly and effectively with any issues they encounter while seeking relief under the settlement, we established a team whose primary role is to handle all homeowner complaints related to the settlement. Often, this team serves as a liaison between the homeowner and the mortgage servicer. The benefit of creating this team is twofold: we can better assist Florida's homeowners and we can identify and remedy any possible patterns of noncompliance by the banks. In addition to gathering information directly from homeowners, I invited the National Monitor to come to Florida for a roundtable discussion with key stakeholders, such as housing counselors and legal aid attorneys, to hear firsthand their experiences with the settlement.

As we have uncovered patterns of potential noncompliance with the terms of the settlement, we have communicated those matters with the National Monitor, the National Monitoring Committee and the banks. Our ongoing dialogue with the banks, homeowners, and other stakeholders ultimately culminated in June with letters to Bank of America and Wells Fargo, the servicers about which we received the most complaints, identifying the patterns of potential noncompliance. The patterns most common among the servicers include the failure to establish the single points of contact required by the settlement and the continuation of dual tracking in situations prohibited by the settlement.

Recently, we were pleased to announce that Bank of America and Wells Fargo have agreed to implement new procedures designed to address possible violations of the National Mortgage Settlement. The two banks have agreed to implement substantial changes in their loan modification application procedures that will improve borrower communication, simplify the document collection process, provide more direct attention to loan modification applicants and housing counselors, and ensure that the banks’ foreclosure attorneys are armed with the proper information regarding the borrowers’ loss mitigation efforts.

We will continue to advocate on behalf of Florida's distressed homeowners and to ensure that the banks comply with the terms set forth in the National Mortgage Settlement.

Pam Bondi

Pam Bondi is the attorney general for the state of Florida.

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