Some 16 months after Countrywide Financial reached an agreement with the Florida attorney general's office to settle one of the biggest predatory lending lawsuits in the nation's history, restitution is coming for distressedhomeowners. More than 2,700 Countrywide borrowers in the Sunshine State are being sent foreclosure relief payments from the lender that now bears the Bank of America Home Loans name.
According to Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, more than $16.9 million will be distributed this week, and each check will be written for just over $6,000. ""These checks will make a significant difference for Floridians who are trying to save their homes,"" McCollum said. ""This will provide real relief to struggling homeowners and families.""
In July 2008, McCollum filed a lawsuit against Countrywide Ã¢â‚¬" then one of the nation's largest mortgage companies Ã¢â‚¬" for allegedly engaging in deceptive and unfair trade practices. The lawsuit claimed Countrywide
put borrowers into mortgages they couldn't afford or loans with rates and penalties that were misleading. That case was resolved in October 2008, and the settlement agreement included a foreclosure relief payment program for Florida homeowners with qualifying Countrywide mortgages.
In addition to the $16.9 million in payouts to borrowers, the attorney general also obtained $4 million to fund a statewide foreclosure assistance program. According to a statement from McCollum's office, the first of these funds were distributed in late 2009, and disbursement will continue over the course of two years. Recipient organizations agree to provide free legal assistance to eligible homeowners who face foreclosure but cannot afford an attorney to review their case.
Countrywide's former chief executive, Angelo Mozilo, was also named in the suit and the civil case against him is still pending in Broward County Circuit Court. The attorney general has also called on Bank of America, which acquired Countrywide after the lawsuit had been filed, to be more responsive to consumers who are trying to modify their loans and save their homes from foreclosure.
As part of a nationwide settlement, the Bank of America-Countrywide conglomerate has pledged similar foreclosure relief assistance and borrower payouts to a whole host of other states, including California, Connecticut, and Illinois, after attorneys general there filed their own predatory lending lawsuits.
In July of last year, Countrywide sent $7.46 million to borrowers in Texas who had already lost their homes or were facing imminent foreclosure.