Saturday, February 24, 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: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the stateís safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last weekís massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Associationís solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nationís conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places ó South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington ó as survivors, victimsí families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasnít enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldnít take months or another tragedy for Florida ó which is hot and full of seniors ó to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. Thatís why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18