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BofA says it will meet goals under Obama foreclosure plan

October 7, 2009 |  4:57 pm

The big banks that provide customer service on most U.S. home loans had egg on their faces in August, when the U.S. Treasury reported that they had made little progress toward modifying mortgages under President Obama’s then-newly implemented anti-foreclosure program.

The No. 1 servicer, Bank of America Corp., was the slowest of all to generate what the administration called Making Home Affordable modifications. Bank of America had offered three-month trial modifications to just 4% of the customers deemed likely to qualify, compared with 9% for all servicers combined, the Treasury announced.

The Treasury is set to release its third monthly report on the program Thursday. And this time, Bank of America says that it has gotten up to speed and will meet an Obama-set goal of starting 125,000 trial mortgage modifications by Nov. 1. (In all, the company services 14 million home loans.)

Bank of America, including the Countrywide Home Loans operations it acquired last year, had started more than 27,000 Obama-style trial modifications as of the end of July. That number reached 59,000 by the end of August, about 95,000 as of Sept. 30, and is now well above 100,000, said Steve Bailey, the bank’s home-retention strategies executive.

"Obviously, we’re feeling pretty good about the program," Bailey said.

Before the federal foreclosure-prevention plan emerged, Bank of America already was doing loan modifications to comply with its settlement of lawsuits brought against Countrywide by state regulators.

That program involved lowering and suspending interest payments, as well as extending the payback time on certain subprime and exotic loans. The goal was to get first-mortgage payments down to 34% of borrowers’ incomes.

The Obama program introduced some twists, including bonuses for borrowers who stay current on loans and paying servicers to reduce the first-mortgage payments (including taxes and interest) down to just 31% of borrowers’ gross earnings.

It also mandated the three-month trial modifications, during which time borrowers would prove they could make the lower payments and provide additional documentation before qualifying for long-term loan restructurings.

Bailey said Bank of America had done hundreds of thousands of modifications outside the Making Home Affordable plan, although the federal program is its first alternative these days.

It wasn’t possible to obtain details Wednesday on how modifications are going at mortgage rivals Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

But there should be a lot more information Thursday in the Treasury report, which presumably will be posted on the department’s press release site.

-- E. Scott Reckard