Bank Of America Provided Cheat Sheet To ‘Independent’ Foreclosure Reviewers

Imagine you’re sitting down for an exam and you find that your friend has already filled in the answers with what he believes are the correct answers. Sure, you can change whatever you want but it would also be so much easier to just let your friend’s answers go, so long as you’re generally in agreement.

A new report from ProPublica.org found that Bank of America did something similar by proactively filling in default responses to each of the hundreds of items that independent foreclosure reviewers were supposed to look over.

The independent review program, announced in Nov. 2011, was intended to make sure that millions of questionable foreclosures got looked at by a fresh pair of eyes. If the bank was found to have made mistakes or acted improperly, the homeowner could be compensated.

Though Bank of America did not provide guidance to third-party reviewers on whether or not the homeowners should ultimately receive compensation, ProPublica found that reviewers answering questions about BofA foreclosures would have to override default answers for each topic.

After ProPublica published a story in October questioning the independence of BofA’s review process, the bank reportedly put an end to the default answers. Now each question comes up with a blank answer field for the reviewer to fill in.

A Bank rep tells the site that “steps were taken” so that the third-party reviewers “could not view answers supplied by the Bank of America Claim Researcher.”

BofA denies that filling in these answers in advance had any effect on the reviews because the reviewers could override the default responses.

Alys Cohen of the National Consumer Law Center says that reviews filed before the policy change “should be re-reviewed.”