Oh how I do LOVE first tuesday. Here’s their latest take on Bank of America’s “new and improved” loan modification centers. (And, while they don’t use the word ‘bullshit’ – which I would – they come pretty darn close!)

“Six new Bank of America (BofA) mortgage help centers will be opened in Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside/San Bernardino, Antelope Valley, Modesto and Bakersfield by early summer. These new mortgage help centers will provide homeowners in danger of foreclosure on a BofA loan the ability to discuss their individual loan situations with BofA staff in hopes of obtaining the near-mythical permanent loan modification.

This newly-announced move comes in response to a scathing critique (full of bark, but oddly bite-less) of the Big Banks’ loose lending and servicing procedures which precipitated the Great Recession.

The housing counselors staffing these new mortgage help centers will be comprised largely of existing BofA employees the Big Bank is looking to redistribute during the current slowdown in loan originations.

But will these six new mortgage help centers actually help? The critics are skeptical. Like many Americans, the pundits have taken a “we’ll-believe-it-when-we-see-it” attitude to the multitude of reform promises made by the Big Banks. These centers, after all, aren’t changing BofA’s modus operandi; they merely provide friendlier faces for their refusals.

first tuesday Take: Count us as one of the critics, but don’t believe the modifications will somehow magically flow forth. Viewed in the best light, BofA is 1) providing its homeowners with a more reliable way of reaching someone who will deny their loan modification requests, and 2) giving its under-employed employees something to do. But we are talking about a bank here, so the likelihood that this move will live up to the best possible interpretation is pretty darned miniscule.

It’s been clear for awhile that marking all these loans to market will hugely undermine (and that’s a nice way of saying “topple”) BofA’s claim to solvency. And even if you believe BofA cares for its customers, it doesn’t care enough for them to go out of business. [For more on mark-to-market vs. mark-to-management accounting, see the October 2010 first tuesday article, Deflation’s push on the real estate recovery.]

So, we’ll say this for BofA: they can be congratulated on their ability to get press coverage on their staffing acuity while they avoid increasing the swollen ranks of California’s unemployed. But mortgage assistance? Don’t count on it.”

From first tuesday Journal Online — P.O. Box 20069, Riverside, CA 92516

The Ney Work Times reported on teh story May 5. Some of its commentary:

“Just over two million homes are in foreclosure nationwide, according to LPS Mortgage Monitor, and another two million borrowers are severely delinquent.

Additional centers may open later this year, the bank said. Counselors fluent in languages including Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese and Russian will be available for non-English speaking customers.

‘There are some people that prefer a face-to-face experience,’ said Rebecca Mairone, national mortgage outreach executive for Bank of America. ‘They prefer telling their story face to face or need additional information about documents or other counseling. We’re committed to helping distressed customers.’

Most of the counselors in the new centers will be transferred from other areas of the mortgage business, like sales and originations, which have slowed with the decline in mortgage demand.

Bank of America officials said their internal foreclosure procedures had changed in the wake of public criticism, and that the centers were being opened partly in response to customer feedback.”

“THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE THAT PREFER THE FACE TO FACE EXPERIENCE”?

“WE’RE COMMITTED TO HELPING DISTRESSED CUSTOMERS”

“MOST OF THE COUNSELORS WILL BE TRANSFERRED FROM OTHER AREAS OF THE MORTGAGE BUSINESS”

What a crock.

It would have been more honest to say: “We don’t want any more bad press so we’re not going to announce layoffs of our mortgage staff, and it’s better public relations to give our customers a face to face denial.”



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