Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Steve A. Linick, the Inspector General of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHFA”), and Christy L. Romero, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (“SIGTARP”), announced today that the United States has filed a civil mortgage fraud lawsuit against BANK OF AMERICA CORPORATION (“BANK OF AMERICA”) and its predecessors Countrywide Financial Corporation and Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. (collectively, “COUNTRYWIDE”). The Government’s Complaint seeks damages and civil penalties under the False Claims Act and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (“FIRREA”) for engaging in a scheme to defraud the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac”). Specifically, the Complaint alleges that from at least 2007 through 2009, COUNTRYWIDE, and later BANK OF AMERICA after acquiring COUNTRYWIDE in 2008, implemented a new loan origination process called the “Hustle,” which was intentionally designed to process loans at high speed and without quality checkpoints, and which generated thousands of fraudulent and otherwise defective residential mortgage loans sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that later defaulted, causing over $1 billion dollars in losses and countless foreclosures.
This is the first civil fraud suit brought by the Department of Justice concerning mortgage loans sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “For the sixth time in less than 18 months, this Office has been compelled to sue a major U.S. bank for reckless mortgage practices in the lead-up to the financial crisis. The fraudulent conduct alleged in today’s complaint was spectacularly brazen in scope. As alleged, through a program aptly named ‘the Hustle,’ Countrywide and Bank of America made disastrously bad loans and stuck taxpayers with the bill. As described, Countrywide and Bank of America systematically removed every check in favor of its own balance – they cast aside underwriters, eliminated quality controls, incentivized unqualified personnel to cut corners, and concealed the resulting defects. These toxic products were then sold to the government sponsored enterprises as good loans. This lawsuit should send another clear message that reckless lending practices will not be tolerated.”
FHFA Inspector General Steve A. Linick said: “To prevent fraud, conducting quality reviews and complying with underwriting standards are critical. Countrywide and Bank of America allegedly engaged in fraudulent behavior that contributed to the financial crisis, which ultimately falls on the shoulders of taxpayers. This type of conduct is reprehensible and we are proud to work with our law enforcement partners to hold all parties accountable.”
SIGTARP Special Inspector General Christy Romero said: “The complaint filed today alleges serious and significant misrepresentations that Bank of America made before and during the time taxpayers invested $45 billion in TARP funds in the bank. SIGTARP and its law enforcement partners will investigate allegations of wrongdoing by TARP recipients, particularly conduct that results in substantial losses to the government and taxpayers.”
To read the full press release please visit the direct link credited to The United States Attorney’s Office, Soutnern District of New York.