Bank of America tops list of mortgage complaints

Bank of America, which handles customer service on about 15 percent of U.S. home loans, accounts for 30 percent of the mortgage complaints logged by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to a new database made public by the federal watchdog.

The level of customer discontent — far greater than at home-lending rivals Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase — reflects Bank of America's struggles since its 2008 acquisition of Countrywide Financial Corp. Countrywide had become the No. 1 mortgage firm by specializing in subprime and other high-risk loans.

Bank of America, which has recorded tens of billions of dollars in losses on Countrywide loans, was the object of 15,136 mortgage complaints since December 2011, when the consumer bureau began taking complaints about home loans.

The bank noted that the bureau's website shows that 98 percent of the problems have been resolved.

Two-thirds of the complaints involved Bank of America's handling of loan modifications, debt collection and foreclosures, a fact the bank attributed to the concentration of toxic Countrywide loans. An additional 20 percent involved customer service problems, such as the handling of payments and escrow accounts for funds used to pay taxes and insurance.

Bank analyst Nancy Bush, a contributing editor to SNL Financial, said the complaint data "enforces what we already knew — that Countrywide was a hot mess."

"The lack of infrastructure at Countrywide left Bank of America in the lurch from day one when it came to enacting the tsunami of directives that came at them (from regulators) after the meltdown," Bush said.

The regulators were responding to a huge problem, the consumer bureau numbers show. All told, the bureau listed 50,457 mortgage-related complaints as of Thursday, more than half the total 90,000 complaints it has received about all financial products and services.

The bureau — created in response to the financial crisis — previously made available a database of complaints about credit cards; on Thursday it added complaint data on student loans, bank accounts and other consumer loans.

"By sharing these complaints with the public, we are creating greater transparency in consumer financial products and services," said the bureau's director, Richard Cordray. "The database is good for consumers, and it is also good for honest businesses."

In a statement issued late Thursday, Bank of America said it supports the consumer bureau's goal of "providing greater transparency in banking service."

Bank of America is the second-largest provider of mortgage customer service, which involves bookkeeping, billing, collecting payments for distribution to mortgage owners and investors, and dealing with distressed borrowers and foreclosures.

No. 1 is Wells Fargo, which according to National Mortgage News serviced 21.5 percent of all U.S. home loans as of Dec. 31. The San Francisco bank accounted for less than 16 percent of total mortgage complaints. JPMorgan Chase, with a 12.7 percent share of the servicing business, accounted for 10 percent of the complaints. Citibank, the fourth-largest servicer with 5.2 percent of the business, accounted for 4.8 percent of the complaints, while No. 5 U.S. Bancorp, with a 2.9 percent market share, generated 1.7 percent of the complaints to the consumer bureau.

Bank of America tops list of mortgage complaints 03/29/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 9:35pm]

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