Ever wonder why it was so difficult for people to get permanent loan modifications a couple of years ago? Maybe it’s because some employees were allegedly paid to make sure they were denied, at least at one bank.

According to a June 14 Bloomberg.com article, Bank of America provided employees with incentives including cash bonuses and gift cards for meeting quotas linked to sending homes into foreclosure. The allegations were revealed by past employees as part of a lawsuit filed against the banking giant earlier this month by homeowners who were denied modifications. Many who were denied loan modifications eventually lost their homes to foreclosure.

Apparently employees in the loss mitigation department were instructed to delay review, ask homeowners for items they already had in the file, and do whatever was necessary to deny permanent loan modifications. Former B of A loan servicing specialist Theresa Terrlonge said that they received restaurant gift cards and cash rewards for denying loan modifications. “I witnessed employees and managers falsify information in the systems of record, and remove documents from the homeowners’ files to make the account appear ineligible for loan modification,” said Terrelonge.

But the big rewards came for actually pushing a borrower into foreclosure. According to Simone Gordon, a loss-mitigation representative who left the company in 2012, specialists who put 10 borrowers into foreclosure, including those in a trial modification, received a $500 bonus. Bank of America insists that the allegations are inaccurate and will file an opposition to the motion to make this a class action case.

Unfortunately, I’m not terribly surprised by these allegations and find it difficult to believe that B of A was the only bank involved in this type of behavior. It’s no wonder that there have been so few successful loan modifications; the very people charged with creating positive outcomes were apparently paid to do otherwise.

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For those of us in the industry, it hardly comes as any surprise that Bank of America has failed to help thousands of Americans receive a permanent loan modification through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).  And it now looks like they might have some explaining to do:  A judge has denied the bank’s request to dismiss a case involving tens of thousands of homeowners who claim they were refused help through the HAMP program.

As you remember, HAMP uses federal funds to help struggling homeowners.   Under the program, Bank of America is required to provide foreclosure alternatives and permanent loan modifications to eligible homeowners.

However, according to Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, the firm representing the homeowners. Bank of America has refused to permanently modify the loans of thousands of borrowers, even after successfully completing a Trial Period Plan (TPP).  “The vast majority tell us the same thing: Bank of America claims to have lost their paperwork, failed to return phone calls, made false claims about the status of their loan and even taken actions toward foreclosure without informing homeowners of their options,”  said Berman.

In the lawsuit, Berman seeks to prove that Bank of America “intentionally postpones homeowners’ requests to modify mortgages, depriving borrowers of federal bailout funds that could save them from foreclosure.”

“The bank ends up reaping the financial benefits provided by taxpayer dollars financing TARP-funds and also collects higher fees and interest rates associated with stressed home loans,” Berman added.

The case will be limited to homeowners who entered a TPP, but were denied a permanent modification.  Judge Rya Zobel also ruled that homeowners in nine state, including California could pursue claims in their states where consumer protection laws are stronger. 

So if you’re a homeowner in the middle of trying to get a HAMPmodification form B of A, the outlook is not encouraging.  The federal government has cut-off HAMPfunds to Bank of America until they make improvements in how they administer the program, which could mean more foreclosures and short sales on the horizon for Bank of America borrowers.