A nearly two-year review of foreclosure abuses ended this month with $9 billion of settlements, but it hardly ruffled bank earnings.
In fourth quarter reports, some of the nation's biggest lenders said that savings from firing consultants doing the reviews would largely cancel out the cost of direct compensation to borrowers. Existing reserves absorbed costs from other pledged assistance, like mortgage modifications and forgiveness of deficiency judgments. (The first tab in the following graphic compares annualized estimates of the costs of the foreclosure reviews and direct payments to borrowers. The second tab shows total settlement amounts and the number of mortgages under review. Interactive controls are described in the captions. Text continues below.)
In all, the settlements, which involve the country’s largest mortgage servicers, encompass $3.6 billion in direct payments to borrowers and $5.7 billion in other forms of assistance.
The reviews covered 4.2 million mortgages that were in some stage of the foreclosure process during 2009 or 2010.
Wells Fargo (WFC) had the second-largest number of borrowers under review – almost 900,000 – and agreed to make direct cash payments of $766 million. The company posted a $644 million charge in the fourth quarter and said the $1.2 billion of additional assistance it pledged was covered by existing reserves.
In a presentation to investors last week, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) Chief Financial Officer Marianne Lake said the review had cost her company between $100 million and $150 million a quarter in 2012. “These costs will now be eliminated almost immediately and the remaining work completed by the end of the month,” she said.
JPMorgan Chase agreed to $753 million in direct compensation and $1.2 billion in other aid and recognized a $700 million pre-tax expense for the fourth quarter.
The first settlements with the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency were announced on Jan. 7 and included the three largest servicers – Wells, JPMorgan and Bank of America (BAC). Settlements with Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS) and HSBC followed.
The settlements resolve a loan review process that was widely viewed as arduous and costly, but they also illustrate the gap between the headline figures on relief for borrowers and the pain felt by banks providing it.