Bank of America to restart foreclosures in 23 states

By Zachary A. Goldfarb and Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, October 18, 2010; 10:13 PM

Just 10 days after announcing a nationwide halt to foreclosure sales, Bank of America, the nation's largest bank, said Monday that it would begin resubmitting paperwork on Oct. 25 to restart foreclosures on borrowers who missed their payments in 23 states.

If judges approve the new filings, the bank expects that the sales of foreclosed properties will start up once again in the states where a court order is needed to foreclose on a home.

The bank said it will continue to freeze foreclosure sales and review files in the District of Columbia and the other 27 states, including Maryland and Virginia, which do not require a judge's action. Reviewing its process in those jurisdictions will take several more weeks, the bank said in a statement.

But it is unclear whether the courts will accept the new paperwork. Some judges have said in interviews that they are considering throwing out entire cases and making the banks file new ones, which would be costly and time-consuming.

"The companies are overstating the ease of withdrawing these affidavits and then resubmitting them," said Judge Lynn Tepper of Florida's 6th Circuit Court.

Amid reports of forged documents, faulty notarizations and "robo-signers" - who signed off on thousands of evictions every month without reading the files as required by law- Bank of America announced its nationwide freeze Oct. 8 to review its procedures. Lawmakers cheered the move and called on other lenders to follow suit. A few days later, the Obama administration argued that a national moratorium would be harmful to the fragile real estate market.

The bank found during its review that, paperwork errors notwithstanding, nobody had been wrongly foreclosed upon, said spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens. "The foreclosure decisions have been accurate," she said.

Filing the new foreclosure paperwork in 102,000 cases will begin Monday and will take several weeks, according to a statement by the bank, which reports earnings Tuesday morning.

Bank of America's announcement doesn't resolve the challenges it and other banks face from the foreclosure mess. These companies face the threat of lawsuits from investors who gave banks money to fund mortgages in exchange for collecting the monthly payments from homeowners.

Bank of America said it had consulted with its biggest mortgage investors before making Monday's announcement.

But on Monday a group of institutional bond investors sent a letter to Bank of America stating that it had failed to properly handle the mortgages that it had packaged and sold to a middleman -- in this case, Bank of New York Mellon -- which ensured the investors would get the cash flow from the monthly payments.

The investors gave Bank of America 60 days to resolve the paperwork issues and other problems with the mortgages it had packaged and sold. Otherwise, they warned, they would sue to recoup their money in what would be a multi-billion- dollar lawsuit.

"It's our hope that this will elicit faithful performance and cures, but if that doesn't happen the investors will invoke every right they have to recover their losses," said Kathy Patrick, an attorney with Gibbs & Bruns, which is representing the investors.

If more of these lawsuits begin to pile up, banks could face massive losses.

Bank of America's stock has been taking a beating recently. Last week, it fell 9 percent to hit its lowest level for the year. On Monday, it rebounded, closing at $12.34, up 36 cents, or 3 percent. Staff writer Jia Lynn Yang contributed to this report.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company