Blog Post

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

"Well done is better than well said"
Benjamin Franklin, US author, diplomat, inventor, physicist, politician, & printer (1706 - 1790)

While I agree wholeheartedly with this notion, I have to admit it has taken me awhile to come around to this viewpoint. I’m someone who loves words -- I can sink into a book the way others sink into down comforters. In fact, I may take more comfort in a book than in a down blanket.

I’ve been known to correct my son’s speech, spell-check ex-boyfriends’ love letters, and read both the dictionary and thesaurus for fun. I take words and what they represent very seriously. As a child, my grandparents taught me to be as good as my word. And I was. I kept almost every promise I made. I didn’t make promises that I couldn’t keep for that very reason -- I wanted my word to be good.

Recently, MCRC and other fair housing advocates have been meeting with regional leaders of Wells Fargo and Bank of America. We also plan to meet with JPMorgan Chase, CitiFinancial, and Ally/GMAC, the other three banks that were part of the national AG foreclosure settlement.

As you may recall, the $25 billion settlement requires these banks to offer loan modifications (including principal reductions) and refinancing to homeowners who qualify. The settlement also requires a number of changes in the ways these banks communicate with homeowners who have questions about their mortgages or are trying to obtain a loan modification.

To date, our meetings with Wells Fargo and Bank of America have been cordial and informative. We’ve discussed ways the banks can reach more homeowners and noted ongoing problems we’ve seen in their efforts to assist homeowners. Advocates have suggested ways to improve the current system and asked questions about how many Maryland families will be helped by the AG settlement and how the banks will report the results of their work to implement the settlement.

We’ve heard many encouraging responses from the banks on new outreach methods and streamlined mortgage-review processes. And I applaud them for their efforts. However, at this point, we need more than words to determine whether these reforms have helped struggling Maryland homeowners remain in their homes -- we need to see the actions and outcomes.

Under the national settlement, the banks will be required to provide state-level reports on their results to the national bank monitor each quarter. Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler will also receive these reports. MCRC is calling for each of the banks and AG Gansler to provide zipcode-level data about their results and to publish these reports on publicly available websites.

The transparency and the possibilityof demonstrating that banks are, in fact, putting their money where their mouths are, that this data could provide promises to go far to rebuild the trust between banks and the general public that has been so badly eroded by the robo-signing scandal as well as the myriad mistaken foreclosures, dual-tracking, and wrongful loan-modification denials that have been well documented by the media over the course of the housing crisis.

Marceline WhiteMaryland Consumer Rights Coalition