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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Reaches $470 Million Joint State-Federal Settlement with HSBC to Address Mortgage Loan Origination, Servicing, and Foreclosure Abuses

Thursday, February 4, 2016
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

Agreement to provide certain California borrowers with loan modifications; foreclosed HSBC loans may be eligible for payments for past abuse 

SAN FRANCISCO – Today Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced that California will join the U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and 48 other states in entering into a consent judgment with mortgage lender and servicer HSBC over its faulty mortgage servicing practices. This ruling will address mortgage origination, servicing, and foreclosure abuses perpetuated by HSBC.

“California homeowners worked hard and played by the rules to stay in their homes during the housing crisis, but for too many, their struggle and sacrifice was met by abusive mortgage servicing practices,” said Attorney General Harris. “This settlement holds HSBC accountable for its abusive practices that manipulated people fighting to stay in their homes. I encourage eligible borrowers who receive a claim form and feel they were a victim of HSBC’s practices to file a claim immediately.”      

Under the terms of the agreement, HSBC will pay $100 million in cash, of which $59.3 million will be used to distribute payments to borrowers whose homes were foreclosed upon between 2008 and 2013, and $40.5 million will be paid to the federal government. The agreement also requires HSBC to provide $370 million in other consumer relief, such as loan modifications, principal reductions, and loan refinancing.

Based on foreclosure numbers, it is estimated that California borrowers are eligible for about 10% of the $59.3 million fund for payments to foreclosed borrowers.

This agreement is very similar to the National Mortgage Settlement of 2012, in which Attorney General Harris secured a historic $20 billion for California homeowners affected by the mortgage crisis. In 2014, Attorney General Harris announced several multimillion dollar settlements regarding mortgage fraud crime, including a national settlement with SunTrust Mortgage that provided $40 million in payments and $500 million in consumer relief nationwide; a national settlement with Bank of America in which California recovered $300 million in damages and $500 million in consumer relief credits; and a national settlement with Citigroup in which California recovered $102.7 million in damages and $90 million in consumer relief. 

Additional information concerning today’s announcement is listed below.

Loan Modifications

The HSBC agreement requires the company to provide certain California borrowers with loan modifications or other relief. The modifications, which HSBC chooses through an extensive list of options, include principal reductions and refinancing for underwater mortgages. HSBC decides how many loans and which loans to modify, but must meet certain minimum targets. Because HSBC receives only partial settlement credit for many types of loan modifications, the settlement will provide relief to borrowers that will exceed the overall minimum amount.

Payments to Borrowers

Approximately 7,526 eligible California borrowers whose loans were serviced by HSBC and who lost their home to foreclosure from January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2012 and encountered servicing abuse will be eligible for a payment from the national $59.3 million fund for payments to borrowers. The borrower payment amount will depend on how many borrowers file claims. 

Eligible borrowers will be contacted about how to qualify for payments.

Mortgage Servicing Standards

The settlement requires HSBC to substantially change how it services mortgage loans, handles foreclosures, and ensures the accuracy of information provided in federal bankruptcy court.

The terms will prevent past foreclosure abuses, such as robo-signing, improper documentation, and lost paperwork. 

The settlement’s consumer protections and standards include:

  • Making foreclosure a last resort by first requiring HSBC to evaluate homeowners for other loss mitigation options;
  • Restricting foreclosure while the homeowner is being considered for a loan modification;
  • Procedures and timelines for reviewing loan modification applications;
  • Giving homeowners the right to appeal denials; and

Requiring a single point of contact for borrowers seeking information about their loans and maintaining adequate staff to handle calls.

Independent Monitor

The National Mortgage Settlement’s independent monitor, Joseph A. Smith Jr., will oversee HSBC agreement compliance for one year. Smith served as the North Carolina Commissioner of Banks from 2002 until 2012, and is also the former Chairman of the Conference of State Banks Supervisors (CSBS). Smith will oversee implementation of the servicing standards required by the agreement and issue public reports that identify whether HSBC complied or fell short of the standards imposed by the settlement. If HSBC is alleged to have violated terms of the agreement, the states and federal agencies can seek relief through the court.

Additional Terms

The agreement resolves potential violations of civil law based on HSBC’s deficient mortgage loan origination and servicing activities. The agreement does not prevent state or federal authorities from pursuing criminal enforcement actions related to this or other conduct by HSBC, or from punishing wrongful securitization conduct that is the focus of the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group. Additionally, the agreement does not prevent any action by individual borrowers who wish to bring their own lawsuits.

The agreement will be filed as a consent judgment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. 

For more information on how to file a claim against a business/company, visit: https://oag.ca.gov/contact/consumer-complaint-against-business-or-company

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