Big Banks: Still Behaving Badly?

AMA3-29-13In spite of settlements, sanctions and suits, the nation’s large mortgage lenders still face more legal actions over fraud, duplicity and failed oversight of lending practices — with effects not just on individual mortgage holders but also on large investors and government entities. Now, new actions in an old court case shed more light on these large lenders’ attempts to beat back more legal demands for accountability.

A lawsuit filed in 2011 by the Federal Housing Finance Agency – the governing body for federal mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – accuses large banks, including mortgage scandal stars Bank of America, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase, of manipulating the sale of billions of dollars worth of mortgage backed securities that ended up failing in the housing crash of 2008. Those events paved the way for the subsequent robosigning scandal and lingering issues of fraudulent practices such as manipulating interest rates. Now, as the FHFA lawsuit continues, the banks named as defendants have filed new motions in the case in an attempt to quash the lawsuit completely.

It’s an unusual move in a long series of legal battles between the banks and various watchdog bodies’ intent on cleaning up the scandals surrounding mortgage lending. But it’s not the first move. According to industry reports, for over a year the courts have been denying motions to toss out the suit, citing limitations imposed on discovery and other process that put them at a disadvantage.

The current motion claims that while the defendants in the case could take only 20 depositions in the case, the FHFA – the plaintiff – can take over 400 – a move that, they say, creates an unequal playing field that threatens their case. But the Federal District Court in Manhattan is standing firm, and the suit goes forward.

This case is among the latest in the continuing rounds of legal actions attempting to hold mortgage lenders accountable and establish standards of fair practices in the mortgage lending industry. Some of the defendants are involved in other, separate actions as well. Citigroup agreed – without admitting wrongdoing — in March 2013 to pay over $700 million in response to charges that the group deceived investors And Bank of America continues under investigation for accusations of fraud connected to LIBOR, the London Interbank Offered Rate that stands as the standard for short term interest rates worldwide.

Mortgage industry professionals and housing industry experts are closely watching the outcomes of these actions – the latest in a long series of attempts to bring accountability to mortgage lending. As the nation’s largest lenders work hard to position themselves as victims of a series of legal vendettas, the industry’s credibility suffers. And as new waves of fraudulent practices come to light, these legal actions aim to create a safer, fairer lending environment for the real victims – mortgage seekers including homebuyers and the independent investors working with Jason Hartman’s principles for creating wealth with income property. (Top Image: Fliekr/flikkersteph)

The American Monetary Association Team

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