Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Help for homeowners still snarled by banks

An essential element of last year's $26 billion national settlement with five major banks was that underwater homeowners would get more help. New rules meant banks could no longer hide behind a bureaucratic morass of lost paperwork and other delays to slow a homeowner's loan modification request while simultaneously pursuing foreclosure. But complaints have flooded in that banks are not following through. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a member of the settlement's monitoring committee, should look to the aggressive actions of other attorneys general as a model.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says he plans to sue Wells Fargo and Bank of America, two banks that are part of the settlement, based on homeowners' complaints. Bondi and the monitoring committee should help with that effort, because New York's experience is part of a wider pattern. The Massachusetts attorney general formally complained to the settlement monitor that the agreement's requirements are "often ignored." In California, a recent survey of 84 housing counselors and lawyers found that banks also are noncompliant there.

Bondi says that her office has been "closely monitoring" settlement compliance. But at ground level it doesn't appear to have had much impact. She should check in with Karine Gialella, who specializes in foreclosure defense at Gulfcoast Legal Services in Pinellas County, who says that the settlement has barely altered business-as-usual.

In Gialella's experience, banks rarely reduce the mortgage principal so homeowners can remain in their homes, which was one of the settlement's goals. And rather than expedite and ease loan modifications, banks are making it harder by adding picayune paperwork to their modification application and delaying review so homeowners have to refile their application to keep it current, Gialella says. The extra time adds fees, penalties and interest to the mortgage, making it more likely that homeowners will fall deeper into arrears.

Under the settlement with 49 state attorneys general and the U.S. Justice Department, Ally Financial/GMAC, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Bank of America and Wells Fargo agreed to correct their customer service deficiencies by adopting new servicing standards. Those changes include strict timelines for notifying a borrower of missing documents and for making a decision on the modification request. Banks also promised to end dual-tracking, where a foreclosure is pursued while homeowners are being considered for a loan modification.

The agreement told banks to stop giving borrowers the runaround and start providing tangible relief to underwater homeowners. The banks say they are doing just that, but that assertion is at odds with the experience in many states. Bondi should renew her efforts to ensure that the banks are holding up their end of the agreement.

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Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18