Banks Gain Edge in Talks on Foreclosure Penalties as Fed, Agencies Settle

Bank of America Corp. BAC, Wells Fargo & Co. WFC and fellow mortgage servicers are more likely to dodge a threatened $20 billion in penalties for faulty foreclosures after U.S. agencies cut ahead of the states by signing deals without fines.

A task force of 50 state attorneys general already was arguing internally over proposed sanctions when people familiar with the talks said the Federal Reserve, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Office of Thrift Supervision and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. began making the deals. While the U.S. watchdogs may yet seek fines, the pacts ease pressure on the banks and erode states’ leverage, said Gilbert Schwartz, a former Fed attorney.

“This puts the attorneys general in an uncomfortable position,” because it reduces the list of outstanding demands and helps firms show progress in fixing lapses, said Schwartz, a partner at law firm Schwartz & Ballen LLP in Washington who is not involved in negotiations. “By settling with the banking agencies, it sets the upper limit on what the banks would be willing to do. This seems to have drawn a line in the sand.”

The first of as many as 14 mortgage servicers signed accords this week agreeing to improve internal controls, communications with borrowers and other processes, said two people familiar with the matter. They are the first sanctions to arise from last year’s probe into so-called robo-signing, in which mortgage firms and their contractors vouched for thousands of foreclosure documents without verifying their accuracy.

Read the full article here: Banks Gain Edge in Talks on Foreclosure Penalties as Fed, Agencies Settle – Bloomberg.

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