Sunday, May 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Big banks sabotaged mortgage aid plan

Had the country's biggest banks worked in good faith with struggling homeowners under a mortgage modification program, the foreclosure crisis would have been sharply curtailed. But instead of giving homeowners fair consideration under the federal program, too many big banks served their own interests. Bank of America, the largest loan servicer in the program, sabotaged the modification effort by financially rewarding employees for foreclosing on homes and deceiving homeowners, according to a lawsuit. Relief was refused to thousands of people who should have qualified, leading to unnecessary suffering and dislocation. Federal regulators should have done a better job policing the banks. The financial sector will not do what is right on its own.

Former employees of Bank of America say its practices were designed to defeat modifications under the government's Home Affordable Modification Program, the main federal program for helping homeowners avoid foreclosure by providing incentive pay to mortgage servicers to modify loans. Six former bank employees and one contractor, including former managers and rank-and-file workers, say that twice a month the bank used a procedure called a "blitz" to deny between 600 and 1,500 modifications to clear older files, regardless of the merits. To cover the bank's improper actions, they allege, the bank had employees justify denials with blatant falsehoods, such as claiming that the homeowner failed to submit required documentation.

Former bank collectors said they were rewarded for denying applications and moving homeowners into foreclosure with financial bonuses of $500 or gift cards to restaurants or retail stores. Bank of America claims all the former employee statements, which are part of a Boston-based federal class-action suit brought on behalf of homeowners, are full of inaccuracies.

But a study late last year by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and other major financial regulation and academic institutions supports the allegation that many big bank mortgage servicing operations were woefully disorganized and understaffed, resulting in about 800,000 qualified homeowners being denied modifications under the program. According to the online investigative media outlet Pro Publica, which has been tracking problems in the loan modification program, Bank of America was much slower to modify loans than other big banks, many of which had slow loan servicing because they didn't invest in those departments.

Bank of America is also the focus of a warning letter from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi earlier this month accusing the bank of delays and other noncompliance issues in mortgage modifications under the terms of the $25 billion national mortgage settlement.

Aggressive government oversight is an essential component of consumer protection. But in the cases of Bank of America and other large banks that participated in the loan modification program, regulators failed to ensure that the program worked as intended.

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Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18