The five biggest US mortgage servicers were told this week at a private meeting with regulators to consider paying delinquent borrowers up to $21,000 each as part of a broader settlement of the foreclosure crisis.
People who attended the meeting, chaired by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation on Monday, said the industry-wide “cash for keys” program would involve the biggest servicers, led by Bank of America paying borrowers as an incentive to leave their homes.
Banks would pay borrowers who are more than 90 days behind on mortgage payments up to $1,000 to seek independent financial advice and up to $20,000 in cash as a “fresh start” payment towards living costs in a new home. They would have to vacate their properties quickly and leave them in good condition.
Sheila Bair, FDIC chairman, raised the idea but people involved said it was not an official government proposal and was rejected strongly by some of the banks.
The Department of Justice; state attorneys-general; banking regulators, including the FDIC; the Treasury; and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are among the agencies trying to come to a settlement with the industry. A combined penalty of about $20 billion has been discussed, with one idea to use the money to write down the outstanding debt of struggling homeowners.
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