Given that the
Office of Bank Boosterism Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is the clear first among the highly competitive ranks of bank-friendly regulators, the fact that the OCC launched a program for borrowers to obtain restitution for financial harm suffered due to foreclosures seemed more than a bit sus.
Gretchen Morgenson does an admirable job of exposing the multiple shortcomings of this OCC program. She quotes Alys Cohen of the National Consumer Law Center, who nails it: “Not only will it not help people, it could easily harm them.”
This is yet another Obama Administration “pretend we are helping ordinary citizens when we are in fact helping the banks” scheme. The most damning tidbit comes late in the article, that borrowers may (I’d assume will) be asked to sign releases that are far broader than the matters under examination. In other words, to get whatever relief the OCC provides, borrowers may unwittingly give up rights worth far more:
For example, participants in line to get remuneration may be asked to give up their rights to defend themselves if they get into financial trouble again.
“This process is not meant to fix the original lending practices, so people need to hang on to their right to challenge the original loan later,” she [Cohen] said.
Morgenson’s account depicts several shortcomings. The banks hire “independent” auditors of their practices, and Morgenson identifies two that look compromised (including one flagged by Michael Olenick on this site). And why, pray tell, isn’t the OCC conducting these reviews? Similarly, the review covers only 2009 and 2010, when many subprime borrowers hit the wall earlier. It’s pretty clear that this process, like the bogus Foreclosure Task Force (which reviewed 2800 loan files and did no validation of the data in those files) is designed to give servicers a clean bill of health, with only some problems that will be deemed to be minor and on their way to being remedied.
What is more than a little frustrating is that this regulatory-initiative-as-coverup is SO predictable, yet so few journalists treat these programs with the skepticism and derision they deserve. We can only hope that one of the perverse benefits of the protracted housing recession will be that media and public complacency erodes.