Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mortgage Lenders and Homeowner Rip-Offs Spark Scores of Lawsuits

Homeowner Rip-Offs Spark Scores of Lawsuits
BOSTON - Many of the biggest mortgage lenders in the U.S. have engaged in widespread, systematic schemes that ripped off hundreds of thousands of families seeking to buy a home, refinance or foreclose, according to lawsuits filed on behalf of consumers.

Hugo Malara, left, and his fiance Maria Sorto watch television at their rental home in Las Vegas, Monday, Feb. 23, 2009. At left is a portrait of young Maria Sorto. No longer able to make his monthly mortgage payment after losing his job at a neon sign company, Malara paid $800 to a former mortgage broker who advertised a 'money back guarantee' promised to help him negotiate to keep him in his home. They later learned that by the time they wrote him the check they thought would save their home, the bank had already sold it at auction. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Scores of class-action lawsuits, from the 1990s and up to today, detail the illegal and questionable practices used by mortgage-lending companies that pushed millions into bad mortgages, then into bad refinancing loans and then into foreclosures with unfair fees.

The lawsuits have been filed by private attorneys and state attorneys general, and on behalf of NGOs.

Ameriquest, Countrywide Financial, H&R Block and Option One, HSBC Finance and Wells Fargo are just a few of the companies that have been sued - some repeatedly - for masterminding or carrying out plans to defraud families.

"Many of the mortgage lenders taking advantage of people today are those who were the biggest perpetrators last time around," Jim Campen, executive director of Americans for Fairness in Lending, told IPS.

HSBC, Britain's largest bank, and its entities Household International and Household Financial and Beneficial, wrote hundreds of thousands of sub-prime loans in the U.S. that have been the subject of multiple class-action lawsuits.

The company has gotten into trouble for its mortgages and consolidation loans aimed at people who are low-income.