Someone ring a bell because Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has just sued Countrywide (and, of course, Bank of America) for deceptive lending practices. They’re seeking damages of $100,000 for each violation, as well as “up to $5,000 per violation of state consumer protection laws, disgorgement of all ill-gotten gains and an order compelling the company to cease its illegal practices.”
Blumenthal, also known as the badass who sued Best Buy over their deceptive secret website, said this about our 2008 “Worst Company in America”:
“Countrywide was at their side — as an insolvency enabler. Countrywide inflated homeowner incomes to qualify them for loans they couldn’t pay back and misled consumers about loan terms.
“Countrywide stacked the deck and the deal against its customers: Our goal is to un-stack the deck — and undo the deals — restoring fairness and fiscal sense to mortgages. I will fight for restitution — money back to homeowners used and abused by Countrywide — as well as fines and forfeitures to the state. Our lawsuit seeks to invalidate loans that violate state law, allowing consumers to shed illegal, unreasonable fees and conditions that leave them at the precipice of foreclosure. We must vigorously fight predatory lending practices that trap consumers on a debt treadmill,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal has released a list of ways in which Countrywide allegedly violated Connecticut lending laws. Here it is in all its shady glory:
Blumenthal alleges Countrywide violated state consumer protection and banking laws by:
- Encouraging consumers to take out loans the company knew or should have known they could not afford;
- Improperly inflating consumers’ incomes to qualify them for loans they otherwise could not have received;
- Providing loans with different and more expensive terms than consumers were promised;
- Pressuring consumers into mortgages with temporary interest only payment options when the company knew or should have known they could not afford the higher payments that would come due later;
- Providing variable rate loans to consumers with the assurance they could refinance before interest rates reset, only to later refuse to do so;
- Sending at least one consumer rejected for a home equity loan at one Countrywide office to another company branch where the loan request was approved;
- Demanding Connecticut consumers facing foreclosure pay excessive and inaccurate legal fees in order to reinstate their loans;
- Promising to help homeowners “in financial difficulty to establish suitable payment plans,” but instead demanding loan modifications and repayment plans that were unsustainable, unaffordable or unsuitable.
If you’re interested, you can read the entire complaint here (PDF). Bank of America told the Wall Street Journal that they couldn’t comment on pending litigation, which is just as well because we had a “taking it seriously” post yesterday and we wouldn’t want to bore you or anything.