This morning it was announced that the federal government and forty-nine state attorneys general (Oklahoma’s Scott Pruitt wouldn’t sign on because he doesn’t think banks should see any penalty) reached a $26 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Ally Financial and Citigroup. The settlement could provide at least some relief to nearly two million current and former American homeowners. A federal judge must still sign off on the deal.
Under the plan, officials said, roughly $5 billion would be cash payments to states and federal authorities, $17 billion would be spent on homeowner relief, $3 billion would go for refinancing and a final $1 billion would be paid to the Federal Housing Administration. The intent of the settlement is both to stop the housing market’s downward slide and to hold the banks financially accountable for foreclosure abuses. Bank of America, the nation’s biggest mortgage servicer, would pay the most.
This will not be the end of the housing crisis. The settlement is not large enough, and frankly it lets the five participating banks off too lightly. More needs to be done to bring housing back and achieve a truly fair reckoning. Although $26 billion is a lot of money, it’s only a small fraction of the $700 billion in negative equity that exists in the housing market. It’s a start, but only a start.