Will one of the nation’s too big to fail banks succeed in buying its way out of a shameful scandal stemming from dozens of improper foreclosures of military families and overcharging thousands more?
J.P. Morgan Chase, which hauled in $25 billion in the bailout, is in full damage control mode, paying out $56 million to settle a class action brought by military families – about $4,500 per family – and temporarily lowering mortgage interest to 4 percent for other military families.
But the bank is still facing a federal investigation stemming from the allegations. Whether the Justice Department finds the nerve to hold accountable one of the big banks remains an open question.
It hasn’t so far, despite evidence of widespread fraud in the bank’s use of robo-signers who verified the accuracy of thousands of foreclosure documents without ever reading them.
But our political leaders haven’t worked up the courage to call it what it is.
The bank had no choice but to acknowledge it had screwed up. To show just how serious it was about doing right by the nation’s fighting men and women, J.P. Morgan Chase appointed an actual commission with some real-life celebrities on it, including retired general William McChrystal and former football legend Roger Staubach.
The Justice Department has no excuse not to go after J.P. Morgan and other banks that have been violating the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which is supposed to keep military families safe from foreclosure while they’re on active duty. Military families have been particularly hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, with 20,000 facing foreclosure last year, a 32 percent increase since 2008.
Federal investigators just made the Justice Department’s job easier – in a recent study GAO found more than a couple of dozen improper foreclosures of military families. You might not think that sounds too bad, until you realize they found those bad foreclosures in an examination of just 2,800 foreclosure files.
Instead of pretending that the foreclosure mess is just going to sort itself out on its own, our political leaders need to acknowledge how deep a hole the big banks have dug for the rest of us to figure a way out of.
We don’t need more hapless PR. A realistic first step would be a foreclosure moratorium. If anybody else but the big banks were engaged in these kind of shenanigans, it would just be labeled what it is: fraud, plain and simple.