Bank of America making changes in foreclosure

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bank of America is telling a Senate panel it is making changes in its foreclosure process after an extensive review found areas needing improvement.

The bank is one of several big mortgage lenders that recently suspended foreclosures temporarily because of concern over flawed documents. Bank of America found in its review that its foreclosure decisions weren’t based on inaccurate documents but did see ways the paperwork could be improved, a bank executive says in testimony prepared for a hearing Tuesday by the Senate Banking Committee.

Among the changes, the legal documents used in the process will each be reviewed by the signer and promptly notarized, said Barbara Desoer, president of the bank’s home loans division.

Desoer said the bank is replacing and resubmitting affidavits that were filed previously in about 102,000 foreclosure cases that haven’t yet gone to judgment in the 23 states where courts play a role in the process. Also, Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America is putting in new procedures for selecting and monitoring the law firms it retains to process foreclosures.

“We are taking the need for improvement very seriously and are implementing changes accordingly,” Desoer said in her testimony.

The Senate banking panel was examining the issue amid growing concern over the disarray stemming from flawed foreclosure documents. A congressional watchdog said in a report issued Tuesday that the disarray could threaten major banks with billions of dollars in losses, deepen the disruption in the housing market and hurt the government’s effort to keep people in their homes.

Revelations that several big mortgage companies sped through thousands of home foreclosures without properly checking paperwork already have raised alarm in Washington. If the irregularities are widespread, the consequences could be severe, the Congressional Oversight Panel said in the report. The full impact is still unclear, the report cautions.

Employees or contractors of several major banks have testified in court cases that they signed, and in some cases backdated, thousands of certifying documents for home seizures. Financial firms that service a total $6.4 trillion in mortgages are involved, according to the new report. In addition to Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase Co. and Ally Financial Inc.’s GMAC Mortgage have suspended foreclosures for some period because of flawed documents.

Federal and state regulators, including the Federal Reserve and attorneys general in all 50 states, are investigating whether mortgage companies cut corners on their own procedures when they moved to foreclose on people’s homes.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who is leading the states’ probe, was scheduled to testify at the hearing Tuesday afternoon. Also expected to appear was the head of Chase’s home loan division and the CEO of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc., or MERS, the system set up so that banks could track a mortgage and avoid paying fees each time one was transferred. Lawyers for homeowners have argued that MERS lacks the documentation to prove mortgage ownership.

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