Last month, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency scuttled the foreclosurereview by independent consultants because it was marred by delays and inefficiency. Instead, the regulator struck a multibillion-dollar settlement directly with the nation’s largest banks, a deal that includes $3.6 billion in payments to aggrieved homeowners.
To accelerate the payments, the comptroller’s office decided to cut out the middlemen, the consultants, from the reviews. In a conference call last week, the government outlined a plan to use the lenders instead, according to people with direct knowledge of the discussion. Banks will now have to assess each loan for potential errors, which will help determine the size of the payments to homeowners.
The decision to tap the banks for support is the latest twist in the review of more than four million foreclosures, a process that has incensed lawmakers and ensnared the nation’s largest lenders. Regulators are eager to make the payments to homeowners, who have languished for more than a year.
In 2012, housing advocates, regulators and some bank executives suggested the government release an initial round of payments to homeowners, people briefed on the matter said. Such a move might have quelled suspicions among homeowners that the independent review was an empty promise, or worse, a fraud. But the effort went nowhere.
Now, the first payments to homeowners are not expected until late March.
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