Treasury Launches Shame Offensive Against Mortgage Servicers


By Paul Kiel

Today, the Treasury Department released data showing how each of the mortgage servicers participating in the administration’s $75 billion foreclosure prevention program has been performing.

We’ll be posting the data on our bailout site in a more reader-friendly format later today. But the main takeaway is that a number of the largest servicers are lagging badly behind the others. And among the laggards are two of the top three: Wells Fargo (Stock Quote: WFC) and Bank of America (the largest) (Stock Quote: BAC).

There are some standouts among the large servicers: JPMorgan Chase (Stock Quote: JPM), GMAC (Stock Quote: GM), Aurora and Saxon. The gap between those top performers and the others is quite wide. JPMorgan Chase, for instance, has started nearly three times as many trial modifications under the program as Bank of America. But it services only about half as many eligible loans that are 60 days or more delinquent, a rough indicator Treasury used to estimate the total eligible loan pool.

In a conference call with reporters this morning, Michael Barr, the assistant secretary of the treasury for financial institutions, used the word “disappointed” a lot to describe some of the servicers’ performance. Clearly the point of releasing the data is to put pressure on the underperforming servicers to improve. After news reports detailed borrowers’ frustrations in trying to wring modifications from their servicers, the administration stepped up its criticism of the servicers early last month, finally summoning them to Washington, D.C., for a talking-to.

But while the administration has publicly wagged its finger at the servicers, it also continues to emphasize that the program is on track to meet its original goal of modifying 3 million to 4 million loans over four years; it’s just that they’d like things to move at a “much more rapid pace,” as Barr put it today. So while it clearly hopes to harness public frustration to put pressure on the underperforming servicers, it’s also trying to get the message across that things are going according to plan.

ProPublica is a nonprofit news organization that produces investigative journalism.

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