05-22-2018  5:08 am      •     
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NEWS BRIEFS

Raina Croff to Speak at Architectural Heritage Center

'When the Landmarks are Gone: Older African Americans, Place, and Change in N/NE Portland’ describes SHARP Walking Program ...

Portland Playhouse Presents August Wilson’s ‘Fences’ Through June 10

May 20 performance will include discussion on mental health; June 10 performance will be followed by discussion of fatherhood ...

Peggy Houston-Shivers Presents Benefit Concert for Allen Temple CME

Concert to take place May 20 at Maranatha Church ...

Family Friendly Talent Show, May 18

Family Fun Night series continues at Matt Dishman Community Center ...

3 killed in Vancouver vehicle crash identified

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — The Clark County Medical's Examiner's Office has identified three men killed in a vehicle crash in Vancouver.The Oregonian/OregonLive reports 24-year-old Tabo Naveta, 27-year-old Akiki Kintin and 27-year-old Kenson Cheipot, all from Vancouver, died from injuries...

Springfield settles lawsuit with fired dispatcher for K

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — The city of Springfield has agreed to pay ,000 to settle a 2014 lawsuit by a dispatcher who said she was wrongly fired after accusing officers of inappropriate conduct.The Register-Guard reported Sunday that a joint statement from the city and the former dispatcher,...

3 killed in Vancouver vehicle crash identified

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — The Clark County Medical's Examiner's Office has identified three men killed in a vehicle crash in Vancouver.The Oregonian/OregonLive reports 24-year-old Tabo Naveta, 27-year-old Akiki Kintin and 27-year-old Kenson Cheipot, all from Vancouver, died from injuries...

Seattle, family reach M settlement for deadly crash

SEATTLE (AP) — The family of a couple killed in 2013 by a drunk driver has settled with the city of Seattle for million.KOMO-TV reported Monday that the family of Dennis and Judy Schulte settled with the city last month.Prosecutors say Mark Mullan was drunk when his pickup hit the...

OPINION

Golfing While Black Is Not a Crime

Grandview Golf Club asks five Black women to leave for golfing too slow ...

Discovering the Best of Black America in 2018

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis discusses the DTU Journalism Fellowship & Scholarship Program ...

Will Israel’s Likud Party Ever Respect the Rights of Palestinians?

Bill Fletcher weighs in on the precarious future of the two-state solution between the Israeli government and the Palestinian people ...

The Future of Medicinal Marijuana in Pets

Dr. Jasmine Streeter says CBD-derived products show beneficial therapeutic benefits for pets ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Black man ordered to pay [scripts/homepage/home.php],000 for racist campus graffiti

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — A former Eastern Michigan University student who admitted to painting racist graffiti on campus has been ordered to pay more than [scripts/homepage/home.php],000 in restitution.The Ann Arbor News reports 29-year-old Eddie Curlin learned his punishment Monday after earlier pleading guilty to...

China sentences Tibetan activist to 5 years for separatism

BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese judge sentenced a Tibetan shopkeeper to five years in prison on Tuesday for inciting separatism, based on his comments in a New York Times documentary in which the man talked about the erosion of his culture and language in the tightly secured region.Tashi Wangchuk's...

Voters choose nominees in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas

ATLANTA (AP) — Four states will cast ballots Tuesday as the 2018 midterm elections take shape. Voters in Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky hold primaries, while Texans settle several primary runoffs after their first round of voting in March. Some noteworthy story lines:IN THIS #METOO MIDTERM,...

ENTERTAINMENT

Sony buys most of EMI Music, to spend B on image sensors

TOKYO (AP) — Electronics and entertainment company Sony Corp. said Tuesday it plans to spend [scripts/homepage/home.php].3 billion acquiring an additional 60 percent stake in EMI Music Publishing, home to the Motown catalog and contemporary artists like Kanye West, Alicia Keys and Pharrell Williams.Sony already owns...

At Cannes, a #MeToo upheaval up and down the Croisette

CANNES, France (AP) — Fifty years after filmmakers shut down the Cannes Film Festival, the prestigious Cote d'Azur extravaganza was again shook by upheaval.From the start to the finish, the 71st Cannes was dominated by protest and petition for gender equality, culminating in the...

Despite Spotify change, R. Kelly's streams still intact

NEW YORK (AP) — Streaming numbers for R. Kelly have remained intact a week after Spotify announced it had removed the R&B singer's music from its playlists, citing its new policy on hate content and hateful conduct.Spotify made the bold declaration on May 10, but R. Kelly's streaming...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

All tied up: LeBron's 44 helps Cavs even series with Celtics

CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James knows the path to the NBA Finals better than anyone in today's game.And...

Experts disclose new details about 300-year-old shipwreck

BOSTON (AP) — A Spanish galleon laden with gold that sank to the bottom of the Caribbean off the coast of...

Palestinians ask ICC for 'immediate' probe against Israel

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Calling it a "historic step" toward justice, the Palestinian foreign minister...

Economists see potential nightmare in new Italian government

MILAN (AP) — The prospect of a populist government in Italy, the eurozone's third-largest economy, has...

The Latest: Explosion kills 16 in Afghan city of Kandahar

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Latest on developments in Afghanistan (all times local):4 p.m.An Afghan...

Syrian army, police celebrate recapturing all of Damascus

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government forces raised their flag over the Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus on...

Paul Kiel Propublica

Over the past several years, we've reported extensively on the big banks' foreclosure failings. As a result of banks' disorganization and understaffing — particularly at the peak of the crisis in 2009 and 2010 — homeowners were often forced to run a gauntlet of confusion, delays, and errors when seeking a mortgage modification.

But while evidence of these problems was pervasive, it was always hard to quantify the damage. Just how many more people could have qualified under the administration's mortgage modification program if the banks had done a better job? In other words, how many people have been pushed toward foreclosure unnecessarily?

A thorough study released last week provides one number, and it's a big one: about 800,000 homeowners.

The study's authors — from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the government's Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Ohio State University, Columbia Business School, and the University of Chicago — arrived at this conclusion by analyzing a vast data set available to the OCC. They wanted to measure the impact of HAMP, the government's main foreclosure prevention program.

What they found was that certain banks were far better at modifying loans than others. The reasons for the difference, they established, were pretty predictable: The banks that were better at helping homeowners avoid foreclosure had staff who were both more numerous and better trained.

Unfortunately for homeowners, most mortgages are handled by banks that haven't been properly staffed and thus have modified far fewer loans. If these worse-performing banks had simply modified loans at the same pace as their better performing peers, then HAMP would have produced about 800,000 more modifications. Instead of about 1.2 million modifications by the end of this year, HAMP would have resulted in about 2 million.

That's still well short of the 3-4 million modifications President Obama promised when he announced the program back in early 2009. But it's a big difference, and a reasonable, basic benchmark against which to compare the program's failings.

The report does not identify these poor performing banks, but it's not hard to ID them. A "few large servicers [have offered] modifications at half the rate of others," the authors say. The largest mortgage servicers are Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citi.

Bank of America in particular (the largest of all the servicers when HAMP launched) has been far slower to modify loans than even the other large servicers, as other analyses we've cited have shown.

Rick Simon, a spokesman for Bank of America, said the banks' "home retention results are significant and in line with our industry peers to date."

The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) paid subsidies to mortgage servicers on the theory that doing so would convince them to embrace modifications. The authors say that voluntary approach apparently didn't have much effect with the biggest servicers. They weren't very good at modifying loans before HAMP was launched and weren't much better after it launched.

The authors wrote that while they can't be sure why these banks underperformed, they "may not have responded to the program since doing so would involve changing their business focus from processing and channeling payments to actively renegotiating loans. In addition, this may have involved significantly altering their organizational capabilities, such as building appropriate infrastructure and hiring and training servicing staff."

That echoes on our reporting on how ill-suited the big banks were when it came to modifying loans. The result inside the banks has sometimes been chaos. As one Bank of America employee complained, "The whole documentation collection thing has got to be purposely not funded. Like, I can't get a fax. I work for a huge bank that has tons of money, and you're telling me that I can't get a fax?"

Since HAMP's oversight has been lax — the Treasury Department, which runs the program, has responded indulgently to mortgage servicers breaking HAMP's rules — banks haven't had to worry much about their low modification rates. (You can see this explained with a song. It's also a big part of our book on the foreclosure crisis.)

A Treasury spokeswoman, responding to the new report, said HAMP had resulted in "one of the most comprehensive compliance reviews of mortgage servicing operations in the country. Servicers in the Making Home Affordable Program are subject to an unprecedented level of compliance oversight."

The report did have some positive findings concerning HAMP. As we've reported, modifications in the program have been more generous to homeowners than modifications done outside HAMP. The authors also found that the program did boost the number of modifications — i.e. it caused modifications that likely would not have happened if not for the program.

The authors also say that HAMP might have induced more modifications if the program had not required such extensive screening of homeowners seeking a modification. From the program's launch, the administration emphasized that the program wouldn't help the wrong sort of "irresponsible" homeowner. That emphasis led to requirements that homeowners send in lots of paperwork to prove their income, which in turn further taxed the big servicers' inadequate systems.

Despite the recent stabilization in home prices and a drop in the rate of homeowners falling behind on their payments, HAMP's limited impact remains a very relevant issue. Even in the sixth year of the foreclosure crisis, the country remains saddled with an extraordinarily high number of loans in foreclosure — about 2 million. That backlog hasn't improved much in the last couple years, meaning it's still hard to forecast when the foreclosure rate will return to a normal level.

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