State AGs will help in US foreclosures probe

Attorneys general of numerous states are now playing an important part in investigating allegations against banks of using sleazy paperwork in evicting their delinquent borrowers from their homes. This could be wonderful news to major banks, such as Bank of America, Ally Financial’s GMAC Mortgage, JP Morgan Chase, and also Wells Fargo who have all figured in this controversy allegedly for using robo-signers to rush foreclosure proceedings.

The entry of state attorneys in the investigation could mean that investigators had recognized the fact that state laws figure prominently in mortgage matters and there is some level of difficulty in proving that banks acted with criminal intent. The prospect of a criminal prosecution of such large institutions could be a challenge notwithstanding the possibility that there was no intent to defraud on their part.

Early this month, the 50 State Attorneys general formed a joint investigation in their continuing efforts to expedite the investigation and focus on the legal documents that were submitted during the foreclosure process. A task force, which involves over twenty federal agencies as well as the Justice Department and federal bank regulators, is also closely looking into the matter.

While the Feds are not exactly deferring to the state AGs, the collaboration between the two could make way for a speedier process as both will be able to contribute their expertise and resources into the investigation.

While the federal government could insist on prison time, the state attorneys could enter into a settlement with the banks that involves fines and penalties. However, state civil penalties are still strong deterrence as large financial penalties could just be as painful as serving prison time.

The state AGs participation in this legal issue could also allow for more smooth cooperation from the banks themselves as the threat of jail time could now be set aside. Banks could then focus on improving internal controls in order to avoid similar problems in the future.

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