The Department of Justice today filed its largest residential fair lending settlement in history to resolve allegations that Countrywide Financial Corporation and its subsidiaries engaged in a widespread pattern or practice of discrimination against qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers in their mortgage lending from 2004 through 2008.
This is the first time that the Justice Department has alleged and obtained relief for borrowers who were steered into loans based on race or national origin, a practice that systematically placed borrowers of color into subprime mortgage loan products while placing non-Hispanic white borrowers with similar creditworthiness in prime loans. By steering borrowers into subprime loans from 2004 to 2007, the complaint alleges, Countrywide harmed those qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers. Subprime loans generally carried higher-cost terms, such as prepayment penalties and exploding adjustable interest rates that increased suddenly after two or three years, making the payments unaffordable and leaving the borrowers at a much higher risk of foreclosure.
In addition, the settlement requires Countrywide to implement policies and practices to prevent discrimination if it returns to the lending business during the next four years. Countrywide currently operates as a subsidiary of Bank of America but does not originate new loans.
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Bank of America Home Loans is the mortgage unit of Bank of America. In 2008, Bank of America purchased the failing Countrywide Financial for $4.1 billion. In 2006, Countrywide financed 20% of all mortgages in the United States, at a value of about 3.5% of United States GDP, a proportion greater than any other single mortgage lender.
Countrywide was founded in 1969 by David S. Loeb and Angelo Mozilo. Loeb died in 2003. The initial public offering was less than successful, with company stock trading over the counter at less than $1 per share. In 1985 Countrywide stock was re-listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol CFC.
Countrywide's stock has been described as the "23,000% stock" by Fortune magazine. Between 1982 and 2003, Countrywide delivered investors a 23,000.0% return, exceeding the returns of Washington Mutual, Walmart, and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.
On January 11, 2008, Bank of America announced that it planned to purchase Countrywide Financial for $4.1 billion in stock. On June 5, 2008, Bank of America Corporation announced it had received approval from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to purchase Countrywide Financial Corporation. Then, on June 25, 2008, Countrywide announced it had received the approval of 69% of its shareholders to the planned merger with Bank of America. On July 1, 2008, Bank of America Corporation completed its purchase of Countrywide Financial Corporation. In 1997, Countrywide had spun off Countrywide Mortgage Investment as an independent company called IndyMac Bank. Federal regulators seized IndyMac on July 11, 2008, after a week-long bank run.
The Mortgage Banking segment produces mortgage loans through a variety of channels on a national scale. Nearly all of the mortgage loans the company produces in this segment are sold into the secondary market, mainly in the form of mortgage-backed securities. In 2006, 45% of those mortgages were conventional non-conforming loans, loans too large to sell to Fannie Mae.The company generally performs the ongoing servicing functions related to the mortgage loans that it produces. It also provides various loan closing services, such as title, escrow and appraisal.
The role of Loan Production is to originate and fund new loans, and to acquire already-funded loans through purchases from other lenders. Loan Production produces mortgage loans through four divisions of Countrywide Home Loans: Consumer Markets, Full Spectrum Lending, Wholesale Lending and Correspondent Lending.
Consumer Markets and Full Spectrum Lending offer loans directly to consumers. Loans produced by these two retail division are originated, funded, and sold by Countrywide. Consumer Markets offers a wide variety of products, whereas Full Spectrum Lending focuses primarily on products appropriate for customers with less than prime-quality credit.
Correspondent Lending purchases mortgage loans from other lenders, which include mortgage bankers, commercial banks, savings and loan associations, home builders and credit unions. These loans may be sold by Countrywide to end-investors on the secondary market, but are originated and funded by other lenders.
Loan servicing services loans, i.e., collects payments from the borrower, handles escrow accounts, tax and/or insurance payments (if applicable), then remits "advances" to the investor's trustee as specified in the Pooling and Servicing Agreement (PSA).
The Banking segment consisted of Countrywide Bank, FSB and Countrywide Warehouse Lending. Formerly, the bank was known as Countrywide Bank, N.A., a nationally chartered bank that was regulated jointly by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve, but it converted its charter to a federally chartered thrift that is regulated by the Office of Thrift Supervision. Countrywide Bank is the 3rd largest Savings and Loan institution and is the fastest growing bank in United States history. Assets from deposits are currently approaching $125 billion.
Countrywide Bank primarily originates and purchases mortgage loans and home equity lines of credit for investment purposes. The majority of these loans are sourced through its mortgage banking subsidiary, Countrywide Home Loans. The Bank obtains retail deposits, primarily certificates of deposit, through the Internet, call centers and more than 200 financial centers, many of which were located in Countrywide Home Loans' retail branch offices as of April 1, 2007.
Countrywide Warehouse Lending provides warehouse lines of credit to mortgage bankers, who use these funds to originate loans. These mortgage bankers are primarily customers of Countrywide Home Loans' Correspondent Lending division and the Capital Markets divisions; the mortgage bankers use warehouse lines of credit from Countrywide Warehouse Lending to help originate loans, then sell those loans to Countrywide through Correspondent Lending or Capital Markets.
Countrywide Asset Management Corporation manages the acquisition and disposition of loans from third parties, as well as loans originated by Countrywide Home Loans, on behalf of Countrywide Home Loans. These are typically delinquent or otherwise illiquid residential mortgage loans, which have primarily been originated under Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Veterans Administration (VA) programs. The Company attempts to rehabilitate the loans, using the servicing operations of Countrywide Home Loans, with the intent to securitize those loans that become eligible for securitization. The remaining loans are serviced through foreclosure and liquidation, which includes the collection of government insurance and guarantee proceeds relating to defaulted FHA and VA program loans.
Balboa Life and Casualty Group underwrite property, casualty, life and credit insurance in all 50 states. Its products include Lender-Placed Property and Auto, which includes lender-placed auto insurance and lender-placed, real-property hazard insurance; Voluntary Homeowners and Auto, which underwrites retail homeowners insurance and home warranty plans for consumers, and Life and Credit, which underwrites term life, credit life and credit disability insurance products.
Balboa Reinsurance Company provides a mezzanine layer of reinsurance coverage for losses between minimum and maximum specified amounts to the insurance companies that provide private mortgage insurance (PMI) on loans in its servicing portfolio. It provides this coverage with respect to substantially all of the loans in the Company's portfolio that are covered by PMI, which generally includes all conventional loans with an original loan amount in excess of 80% of the property's appraised value. In return for providing this coverage, it earns a portion of the PMI premiums.
The primary activities of the Global Operations segment was Global Home Loans (GHL): a UK third party administrator (TPA) formed out of a joint venture between Countrywide and Woolwich plc in 1998. Activities included Loan Processing and Subservicing, providing mortgage loan application processing and mortgage loan subservicing in the United Kingdom.
By 2005, GHL operation processed more than £11.3 billion ($20.3 billion) in loans, all of which are subserviced for Barclays, PLC, the joint venture partner. As of December 31, 2005, Global's subservicing portfolio was £59 billion ($102 billion).
In November 2005, Barclays announced that it intended to terminate the third party administration arrangement with GHL and bring the mortgage originations and servicing operations back in-house. This resulted in Countrywide buying out Barclays' remaining 30% stake in GHL. Barclays brought the operation back in-house in February 2006.
Since then Global's presence in the UK has been confined to providing support to Barclays and Prudential Assurance, who continue to use the proprietary originations, servicing and arrears processing systems developed for GHL and Countrywide by Countrywide Technology Group (CWTG).
Countrywide agreed to a settlement with New York state attorney general Eliot Spitzer to compensate black and Hispanic borrowers improperly steered by Countrywide salespeople to higher-cost loans. The company also agreed to improve training and oversight of its loan officers and to pay New York state $200,000 to cover costs of the investigation. 2b1af7f3a8