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Banks, States Agree on Foreclosure Settlement

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Five of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders have come to a settlement agreement related to a probe by both federal and nearly all state governments over their practices when it comes to foreclosures over the last several years.

Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have worked with government officials to finalize a massive settlement of charges related to foreclosure abuse, worth as much as $26 billion, according to the New York Times. Those five financial institutions combined to handle roughly 55 percent of all outstanding home loans nationwide, some 27 million in all. Altogether, the federal government and attorneys general from 49 states worked together to get the settlement, and the only state that did not participate, Oklahoma, is working on a settlement of its own.

The investigations into the lending practices is expected to help about 2 million homeowners who suffered financially as a result of the problems related to the housing meltdown, but critics say that this number is relatively small compared with the number of consumers who were foreclosed upon improperly. In the end, about $1.5 billion in settlements will be sent to borrowers who went through the foreclosure process between September 2008 and December 2011, and those consumers can expect to receive between $1,500 and $2,000 each. Another $3.5 billion will be paid in penalties to the participating state and federal governments, and the remaining $20 or so billion could lead to reduced home loan balances for tens of thousands of people nationwide, as well as refinancing for underwater consumers.

However, critics say that the measures don’t go far enough to help seriously troubled consumers. Some estimates have shown that the average borrower with a home loan that costs more than the value of their house are roughly $50,000 underwater, and based on recent statistics, it seems the average beneficiary of the settlement will only receive about $20,000 in aid, on average.

“I just don’t think it’s going to be a life-changing event for borrowers,” Gus Altuzarra of the Vertical Capital Markets Group told the New York Times.

There have been numerous efforts from the federal government to kickstart the housing market in the last year or so, but many say that these programs failed because of stringent qualification standards that made it difficult for even the most troubled borrowers to find relief.

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