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Bank of America Bombshell: Whistleblowers Reveal Orchestrated Coverup and Massive Borrower Harm

Obama promised justice to abused American homeowners. Have they gotten it?

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I really kind of went into it very naively, I guess, as a lot of us did, that we were actually there to do good and were being welcomed there to do good for people….I mean, I had gone from pretty gung ho to, “Hey, you guys need to knock this crap off. You guys are just – you’re, just, you’re turning this into a sham.”

Note that Bank of America and Promontory are likely to claim, as they did late last year when ProPublica published an article questioning the independence of the foreclosure reviews, that Promontory was doing the reviews and the contractors employed in Tampa Bay and other locations were simply doing document retrieval. In later posts, we will discuss in depth why this claim is ludicrous in light of how the organization was structured, how Bank of America managers interacted with the reviewers, and how the tests were designed and the reviewers were trained.

Overwhelming evidence of widespread, systematic abuses . No interviewee estimated harm as occurring in less than 30% of the files they reviewed; one put serious harm at 80%. The interviewees did not simply describe individual borrower suffering in graphic terms (as one put it, “I saw files that would make your stomach turn.”) Multiple interviewees would describe widespread, sometimes pervasive patterns of impermissible conduct.

The reviews confirm what both servicing experts and foreclosure defense attorneys have seen since the crisis: Bank of America’s servicing standards were poorly designed and thus unable to handle the deluge of troubled borrowers (suspense accounts, modifications, bankruptcy, etc.). In addition, BofA had a low level of competence in their servicing area and, as a result, the problems with their servicing was made worse. For instance, reviewers gave examples of types of behavior where Bank of America practices were clearly contrary to the law, yet the banks’ personnel confidently maintained that they were proper

OCC’s badly flawed review structure compounded by complex, chaotic, and undermanaged implementation by Promontory. By delegating so much of the review process to “independent” firms (many of whom had little or no experience with servicing and foreclosure), the OCC doubled down on the same incompetence and poor standards that Bank of America and the other servicers already had in their servicing departments. Many of the flaws in the review process (compartmentalized reviews, conflicted supervisors, poor senior review for issues or disputes) were mirror images of the problems at the servicer. These problems were made worse by a bizarre management structure and frequent changes to test content and directives.

Concerted efforts to suppress finding of harm. The organizational design, the way the reviewers were managed, the elimination of areas of inquiry, and evidence of records tampering with Bank of America records all point to a multifacted, if not necessarily well orchestrated, program to make sure as much damaging information as possible was not considered or minimized. To give one example: state law issues were eliminated from the in G test, which covered loan modifications (see Appendix II below), reducing it over time from 2200 questions to 500.

Dubious role of Promontory. Promontory was a poor choice to perform the review. It had virtually no internal expertise in serivcing, provided little or no supervision, and, either by design or incompetence, managed to politicize the review process rather than make it independent.

Promontory’s recent accomplishments include telling MF Global’s board that it had “robust enterprise-wide risk management” five months before it failed and finding only $14 million of Standard Chartered wire transfers in a money laundering investigation to be out of compliance, when the bank eventually admitted the amount was $250 billion. That is no typo, that is an over four order of magnitude difference.