Gallagher & Associates Team

Gallagher & Associates Team

Monday, February 28, 2011

BOA Settles Class Action Overdraft Suit

Bank of America has agreed to a $410 million settlement in nationwide class action lawsuits alleging that banks have abusive and excessive overdraft fee policies.

The suits, consolidated before U.S. District Court Judge James Lawrence King in Miami, sought to recover millions of dollars in fees charged to consumers on debit card purchases.

Last spring, Bank of America said it would stop charging those fees. Instead, customers could only make debit card purchases if they had enough money in their accounts. Other banks targeted in the lawsuit include Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and Wachovia, which merged with it.

The bank limits the number of overdraft fees a customer can receive to four a day from 10 a day. Bank of America also said it extended deposit cut-off times to 8 p.m. and reduced the length of deposit holds, which allows customers quicker access to deposited funds.

Additional Foreclosure Firms Investigated

The Florida Attorney General's Office has requested information from three additional law firms in connection with allegations of foreclosure fraud. The Attorney General requested documents and information from Albertelli Law, Kahane & Associates and Law Offices of Daniel Consegura.

Prior to this request, the Attorney General made the same request of Law Offices of David Stern, Shapiro & Fishman, Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson and Florida Default Law Group in connection with similar investigations.

Many of bank and mortgage lender clients of David Stern's firm have terminated their relationship with the firm and sought replacement counsel amidst allegations of fraudulent document practices.

Mozillo Criminal Case Closed

After paying a $22.5 million fine, and after Bank of America footed the bill for a $45 million settlement on his behalf, the Department of Justice has closed its criminal investigation of former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo.

In October Mozillo settled a civil lawsuit with the Securities and Exchange Commission for $67.5 million, while not admitting or denying fault for his actions, which the SEC alleged helped bring about the financial meltdown.

The U.S. Justice Department closed the investigation of Mozilo that began in 2008, determining that those same actions made by Mozilo while he was CEO of the company were not criminal. But other investigations of Mozilo are still underway.

Last week Rep. Darrell Issa requested a subpoena be issued to Bank of America, which bought Countrywide in 2008, regarding the "Friends of Angelo" program that offered preferential loan terms to lawmakers and government officials, allegedly in exchange for political favors.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Foreclosure Mediations Fail

In 2010 the Supreme Court of Florida passed an administrative order that required early mediation in all residential foreclosure cases. However, the statistics show that the program has not proved to be effective.

Statewide, there were 13,417 cases referred to mediation between March and June, according to a state report. Of those, 768, or 1 percent, resulted in the borrower and lender coming to an agreement. That could include a loan modification or a short sale.

HAMP Revamp

HAMP Revamp

House Republicans introduced a bill in January to end HAMP, the Obama administration's main foreclosure-prevention effort, calling the White House program a "colossal failure."

Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) introduced the bill to terminate the Treasury Department's Home Affordable Modification Program immediately. He was joined by Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R., N.C.).

Critics say the government hasn't been aggressive enough in preventing foreclosures. The government should do more, they say, to press banks to write down principal balances to assist homeowners who owe far more on their properties than their homes are worth.

Only 522,000 homeowners were enrolled in HAMP loan modifications and were making payments on time as of the end of last month, the Treasury Department said. That is far short of the original goal of helping as many as four million homeowners.

About 793,000 homeowners, or roughly 54% of the nearly 1.5 million who have enrolled since spring 2009, have dropped out of the program.

Consumer Warning: Debit Cards

Consumer Warning: Debit Cards

Banking experts have warned that the days of free debit card use are may be up. Bank of America, US Bank and other banks have indicated they plan to implement fees and limitations in connection with the use of debit cards.

Bank of America Corp., the biggest debit-card issuer, said earlier this month that it will begin charging retail customers checking-account fees unless they maintain minimum balances, make regular deposits, use credit cards or take advantage of online services.

U.S. Bancorp executives hinted that later this year, debit cards might no longer be a free product at the bank. That would make it the first bank to adopt such fees. They hhinted that to recapture revenue that most likely will be lost from recent legislative changes and proposals, the bank might change its checking account pricing, reduce rewards and "perhaps" add a debit card fee, among other action items. U.S. Bank is just the latest bank to announce new checking account fees in reaction to regulation.

Another one of these expected changes is the reintroduction of the minimum account balance requirement. With this, if a consumer makes too many purchases and slips below a predetermined amount in their checking account, they could be hit with a big penalty fee. Pay special attention to any mailings from your bank as they are required to provide written notice of any account changes.