WASHINGTON — Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, sent a letter Wednesday to the heads of the largest mortgage lenders, urging them to work with troubled homeowners to restructure their loans rather than initiate foreclosure proceedings.
Frank, one of the key lawmakers in pushing the financial rescue plan through Congress over the last month, said in the letter that repeated warnings by lawmakers to the mortgage-servicing industry had so far gone unheeded.
The letter, which was sent Tuesday, is addressed to the heads of several of the largest lenders and mortgage servicers including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co.
"Unfortunately our warnings and urgent appeals have not been sufficiently heeded, thus deepening the effects of the financial crisis on homeowners, communities and the economy as a whole," Frank said.
He pointed to the announcement by Bank of America Corp. this week that it intends to engage in "mass modifications of troubled mortgages" that stem from Countrywide Financial Corp., the lending giant it had taken over earlier this year.
These modifications will result in $8.7 billion in direct relief by the bank to borrowers through "substantial interest rate reductions, reductions in principal and waivers of late fees or prepayment penalties," Frank said.
He said this should form the model for the action he wants to see other lenders take to help ease the housing crisis.
"It is essential that every mortgage servicer firmly commit to implement plans for immediate mass modifications based on, or stronger than, the measures Bank of America/Countrywide has undertaken," Frank said.
He said the lenders must report back to the financial services committee by Oct. 17 with details of their plans and specific commitments to help distressed borrowers.