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Bank of America’s “Independent” Review Process Altered

A major component of fairly compensating homeowners for the damages they suffered as a result of bank misdeeds in the wake of the housing crisis was the government initiated Independent Foreclosure Review.

As one would infer from the name, it’s supposed to be independent. However, as our Miami foreclosure lawyers and many others have been well-aware, it has been anything but.

This happened with many banks who were compelled by the government to hire these individuals, but it was especially true for Bank of America. As we reported last month in our Miami Foreclosure Lawyer Blog, not only were these so-called independent consultants being paid directly by the banks, they were allowing banks to weigh in on individual cases. Plus, the banks were being allowed to petition the consultants for an appeal on the final decision – whereas the homeowners were not being given this same courtesy.

When ProPublica first published a story about the practice back in October, a strong case was made for why the work being done by these consultants wasn’t actually independent. However, even the reporter did not realize at the time that when the consultants were analyzing these individual cases on a computer screen through a series of standardized questions, it was the bank’s own answers to these questions that came up as the “default” on the screen. It was then up to the consultant to change the bank’s answer if they felt it wrong.

In fairness, there is no evidence at this point that the bank was pressuring the consultants to accept those answers, and the bank didn’t fill in the blank with regard to the last several questions, which answered whether the bank should pay compensation and if so, how much. However, it’s worth noting that those determinations were based primarily on the answers to the questions that preceded.

Bank of America has since reported that it ended the practice a month after the ProPublica story was published. So now, consultants are reviewing each case with a blanks screen – as should have been the case from the start. A spokesman with the bank confirmed that the consultants now could not view the answers that were given by the bank’s own claim researcher.

Still, BofA maintains that has no bearing on the legitimacy of the previously-decided claims, a statement that of course has drawn enormous skepticism from homeowner advocates. In fact, representatives for the National Consumer Law Center is pushing to have those cases that have already been reviewed to be reviewed again, to ensure the results were not tainted by the bank’s default answer system.

Nearly 4.5 million homeowners are eligible to have their cases heard by the Independent Foreclosure Review, but the process has to be initiated by the homeowner, who must submit a claim. As of November, only about 7 percent – or 315,000 – eligible homeowners had actually done so.

It’s important for you to understand that you could be eligible to receive up to $125,000 in compensation and you may even be able to get your home back, depending on the circumstances. So in some cases, applying is certainly worth a shot.

Bank of America has the most number of potential loans eligible – 1.3 million.

However, given the shady practices of these financial institutions from the outset, this is not a process you should venture into alone. Consult with an experienced Miami foreclosure lawyer before submitting or signing anything, and allow us to ensure that your case is handled fairly and that you get the compensation you deserve.

If you’re battling foreclosure in Miami or the surrounding areas contact Jacobs Legal for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (305) 358-7991. Also, don’t miss Miami Foreclosure Attorney Bruce Jacobs on 880AM/the Biz, every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on “Mortgage Wars,” discussing foreclosure topics that matter to YOU.

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