Nevada Agrees to Take Foreclosure Deal

LAS VEGAS -- Today's announcement that Nevada joined 48 other states in a $25 billion settlement with the nation's five largest residential mortgage services is certain to impact Nevadans but it could take as long as three years to find out just how many homeowners will be helped.

That's according to the new website, which was set up by the government in an attempt to explain the complex agreement that was reached with Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial.

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"Because of the complexity of the mortgage market and this agreement, which will be performed over a three-year period, borrowers will not immediately know if they are eligible for relief," the website states.

Nevada has led the nation in home foreclosures, and real estate analysts have estimated that more than 60 percent of Clark County homeowners with mortgages are underwater.

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What is known is that 750,000 borrowers who lost their homes through foreclosure will be eligible to share $1.5 billion, which works out to $2,000 each.

There will also be up to $17 billion available to reduce the principal on first and second mortgages and up to $3 billion that will help homeowners with refinancing at lower interest rates.

But loans owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac aren't covered by this settlement.

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto had been one of the last holdouts among state attorneys general, arguing that the banks shouldn't be given broad relief from ongoing mortgage investigations, especially those involving the state's own civil and criminal investigations. Her office even sued Bank of America in December 2010 for allegedly engaging in unfair trade practices against Nevada homeowners.

But the Obama administration encouraged the states to settle with the banks, viewing an agreement as the best chance struggling homeowners would get at achieving at least some mortgage relief. This is the largest multi-state settlement since the one reached with tobacco companies in 1998.

"This agreement -- the largest joint federal-state settlement ever obtained -- is the result of unprecedented coordination among enforcement agencies throughout the government," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said. "It holds mortgage servicers accountable for abusive practices and requires them to commit more than $20 billion towards financial relief for consumers. As a result, struggling homeowners throughout the country will benefit from reduced principals and refinancing of their loans.

"The agreement also requires substantial changes in how servicers do business, which will help to ensure the abuses of the past are not repeated."

The only state that didn't sign the multi-state agreement was Oklahoma, which settled with the banks separately for $18.6 million. Its Republican attorney general, Scott Pruitt, argued that the agreement is potentially unfair because it could reward homeowners who stopped paying their mortgages over families who continued to make payments even if they were underwater on their loans.

"We had concerns that what started as an effort to correct specific practices harmful to consumers morphed into an attempt by President (Barack) Obama to establish an overarching regulatory scheme, which Congress had previously rejected, to fundamentally restructure the mortgage industry in the United States," Pruitt said.  

Given that this is an election year many pundits have already suggested that Democrat Obama would trumpet the settlement as a way of showing that his administration is looking out for struggling homeowners. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who won the Feb. 4 Nevada caucuses in a landslide, has downplayed the need for any government-induced relief by taking the free market position that the home foreclosure process should be allowed to run its course., a website operated by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C., reported that commercial banks so far have contributed nearly $10.5 million to federal campaigns during the 2012 election cycle, including more than $1.9 million to presidential candidates. Most of those contributions have gone to Republicans.

Donors tied to Bank of America have given Romney $126,500 and Obama $39,024. JPMorgan Chase donations have included $112,250 to Romney and $37,689 to Obama, while Citigroup donors have contributed $57,050 to Romney and $36,887 to Obama.

Over the next six to nine months a settlement administrator, attorneys general and mortgage servicers will begin identifying homeowners for immediate cash payments, principal reductions and refinancing. Eligible homeowners will be notified by mail but it is expected to take up to three years to fully execute the agreement.

The settlement holds the banks accountable for their wrongdoing on robo-signing and mortgage servicing, meaning the states won't pursue civil lawsuits against them for those activities. But the states reserved the right to pursue criminal claims and citizens remain free to file their own lawsuits or participate in class action claims.

The settlement also doesn't release claims related to the securitization of mortgage-backed securities that helped create the financial crisis, doesn't release claims against the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems that banks used to bypass county recorders, and doesn't end state investigations of Wall Street related to financial fraud.

The banks will also be required to reform their mortgage servicing standards by furnishing a single point of contact that homeowners can use, achieving adequate staffing and training, providing better communication with borrowers, and ending certain improper fees. Servicers who fail to comply with the agreement will also be subject to heavy penalties.     

Borrowers who want more information can contact Bank of America at 877-488-7814, JPMorgan Chase at 866-372-6901, Wells Fargo at 800-288-3212, Citigroup at 866-272-4749 and Ally Financial at 800-766-4622.

The office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also announced that it will sponsor a home foreclosure prevention clinic on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Financial Guidance Center (formerly Consumer Credit Counseling Services) at 2650 S. Jones Blvd. 

The clinic is for struggling homeowners with loans from Bank of America or Wells Fargo. Attendees will have an opportunity to meet with a housing counselor and bank representative to discuss options that may be available to help avoid foreclosure. Homeowners must RSVP by email to or by calling Reid's Las Vegas office at 388-5020.


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