Banks, Obama butt heads on mortgages

By Mark DeCambre

The nation’s biggest banks are championing a plan that would defer principal payments for troubled borrowers who are “underwater” on their mortgages rather than reducing the loans. Big banks, including JPMorgan Chase, are discussing loan modifications as part of settlement talks with federal regulators and state attorneys general over shoddy mortgage practices. That stance is miles away from the current Obama administration’s proposal, which would penalize banks for a robo-signing fiasco that has led to a raft of improper foreclosures while introducing measures to jumpstart the housing market. The White House is pushing banks that maintain loan-servicing platforms, including JPMorgan, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup, to cough up $20 billion in fines, The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. As part of the settlement, they also want a commitment from banks to reduce payments for borrowers who owe more on their homes than they are worth. “Everybody’s negotiating like mad,” said Karen Shaw Petrou, a managing partner at consulting firm Federal Financial Analytics. “However, there is no one true light in these mortgage-settlement [discussions]. There are competing objectives here and competing interests.”

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