Partners in Government
THE CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL
In February 2012, the California Attorney General helped obtain a successful commitment from the nation’s five largest banks to dedicate an estimated $18 billion nationally to mitigate harm to California homeowners caused by bank conduct in the foreclosure process. This commitment was formalized as the National Mortgage Settlement. These efforts were the culmination of work by the Attorney General’s Mortgage Fraud Strike Force, which was formed in March 2011 to investigate and prosecute misconduct related to mortgages and foreclosures.
To enforce the provisions of the National Mortgage Settlement, Attorney General Harris established the California Monitor Program. The Program reviews complaints for enforcement purposes under the National Mortgage Settlement and may reach out to some homeowners for follow-up discussion, as appropriate.
To provide assistance to homeowners affected by California’s foreclosure crisis, Attorney General Harris awarded $10.4 million under the National Mortgage Settlement Fund Consumer Assistance Grants Program. Recipients provide free housing counseling and legal services to homeowners. A special grant to the Homeowner Bill of Rights Collaborative focuses funds on training for attorneys on how to use the law to advocate for homeowners facing foreclosure.
The California Attorney General’s Office also played a leadership role in the passage of The California Homeowner Bill of Rights (HBOR), which builds on and extends the reforms in banking practices that are a part of the National Mortgage Settlement. HBOR restricts dual-track foreclosures, a practice through which a lender forecloses on a borrower despite being in conversations with that borrower about the granting of a loan modification to reduce monthly mortgage payments and save the borrower’s home. HBOR also guarantees struggling homeowners a Single Point of Contact (SPOC) at their bank with knowledge of their loan and direct access to decision makers, and imposes civil penalties on lenders that fraudulently sign mortgage documents.