$25 Billion Mortgage Settlement Is Just The First Step Toward Cleaning Up Mortgage Mess

There are a lot of good things about today’s $25 billion settlement between the five largest mortgage servicers, the Dept. of Justice and the attorneys general of 49 states. But in spite of the huge price tag on the deal — which could grow even larger if other lenders sign on — it’s only the beginning of cleaning up the aftermath of housing market collapse.

While the settlement will help reduce mortgage amounts and mortgage payments for around one million homeowners who owe more than their homes are worth, it only affects privately held mortgages serviced by the five lenders involved in the settlement. The settlement also only covers loans issued during a limited span of time, even though a number of toxic mortgages were issued before 2008.

Additionally, more needs to be done to make it easier for homeowners with high-interest loans to refinance at more today’s record-low interest rates.

“Millions of American families have lost their homes or seen the value of their homes disappear because of fraudulent foreclosure practices,” said Pamela Banks, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union. “This settlement represents an important down payment toward assisting struggling homeowners and holding banks accountable for foreclosure abuses. But clearly much more work needs to be done to ensure banks are held liable for their misdeeds and homeowners hurt by unfair mortgages practices get the help they need.”

While the settlement prevents the states from pursuing civil charges against the five lenders — Ally, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo — it leaves the door open to criminal investigations.

In addition, banks can still be prosecuted for their role in the nation’s financial crash. President Obama recently named New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate how risky mortgage backed securities contributed to the collapse of the economy.

“Americans are still waiting for financial institutions to be held accountable for their role in causing the biggest financial downturn since the Great Depression,” said Banks. “Now, more than ever, we need a vigorous investigation so that the culpable are held accountable and there is meaningful relief for homeowners.”