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Goldman Sachs agrees to stop many controversial mortgage practices

NEW YORK — Goldman Sachs' mortgage subsidiary agreed Thursday to stop many of its controversial mortgage-related practices in a settlement with a New York state banking regulator.

The New York's Department of Financial Services and Banking Department said the settlement was a condition to Goldman Sachs Group's sale of its Litton Loan Servicing subsidiary to a mortgage company Ocwen Financial.

Also Thursday, the country's chief federal banking regulator, the Federal Reserve Board, announced a formal enforcement action against Goldman to address a pattern of misconduct and negligence in how it handled mortgage loans and foreclosures via Litton.

The Fed ordered Goldman to retain an independent consultant to review foreclosure proceedings initiated by Litton that were pending in 2009 and 2010. The Fed said the review is intended to provide remediation to borrowers who suffered financial injury as a result of wrongful foreclosures or other deficiencies identified in a review of the process. The Fed said it also plans to announce monetary penalties.

As part of the New York deal, the Goldman subsidiary said it will stop the practice of robo-signing mortgage paperwork. Robo-signing came to light last fall when it was revealed that the largest banks had outsourced mortgage paperwork to processing companies that, in turn, hired unqualified people to sign thousands of mortgage affidavits without reviewing loan documents. The practice is illegal. Many documents were also notarized in a way that violates state law. The findings led to a temporary halt to most mortgage foreclosures in fall 2010.

Goldman, Litton and Ocwen also agreed to withdraw pending foreclosures if affidavits were robo-signed or inaccurate. The settlement requires the company to either return property that was wrongfully sold back to the original borrowers or provide compensation.

The deal also prevents Litton or Ocwen from adding late fees and other servicer fees that make it more difficult for delinquent borrowers to pay back what they owe.

Goldman Sachs also committed to help troubled homeowners by writing down $53 million in unpaid principal of home mortgages.

Treasury scolds B of A and Chase

The Treasury Department said Thursday that Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase have done a poor job helping people permanently lower their mortgage payments as part of the government's signature foreclosure-prevention program. The lenders have rejected people who were eligible for mortgage modifications, Treasury said. The mortgage-aid program was launched in 2009 and was intended to help those at risk of foreclosure by lowering their monthly payments. Borrowers start with lower payments on a trial basis. But the program has struggled to convert them into permanent loan modifications.

Goldman Sachs agrees to stop many controversial mortgage practices 09/01/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 1, 2011 11:36pm]
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