The nation's top four top banks have satisfied their consumer relief and refinancing obligations under the national mortgage settlement and have until next year to comply with the agreement's servicing standards.
In a report released Tuesday, Joseph A. Smith Jr., the settlement's monitor, gave the banks credit for $20 billion in consumer relief—less than half of the total relief provided. To encourage banks to reduce principal balances, the settlement gave only partial credit for other forms of relief, such as short sales or refinancings.
Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (NYSE:C), JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Wells Fargo (WFC) provided a combined $50 billion in total consumer relief to more than 600,000 distressed borrowers as part of the settlement struck with federal regulators and 49 state attorneys general in early 2012. The mortgage settlement was designed to address servicing abuses that led to the robo-signing of foreclosure documents. Smith has been releasing periodic reports on the servicers' progress.
The report showed that B of A alone provided a total of $27.3 billion in total gross relief – more than what was required in the settlement from all five banks combined.
"This report shows that the settlement accomplished what it set out to do," Smith said. "If I had to wish for an outcome, this is close to it. But there's still a lot of work to do on the servicing standards side and compliance with rules on how to handle distressed borrowers."
Smith filed "crediting reports" Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia confirming that the top banks have fulfilled their obligations. He previously certified that Ally Financial, formerly known as GMAC, had fulfilled the consumer relief and refinancing requirements in February 2013.
From the beginning, consumer advocates criticized the settlement for allowing banks to get credit for completing short sales—which result in borrowers giving up the property—when one of the stated goals was to keep consumers in their homes.
The largest share of the consumer relief—37%—did ultimately come in the form of first lien principal forgiveness. Short sales and deeds in lieu of foreclosure accounted for 31% of credit relief, followed by 17% for refinancing assistance and 15% for second lien forgiveness, Smith said.
The settlement requires that at least 30% of total consumer relief come from first lien mortgage modifications, and that a combination of first and second lien mods equal at least 60% of relief.