Today, various news outlets have reported the Federal Trade Commission is issuing refund checks to homeowners that were overcharged by Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. These checks are a product of the FTC’s hefty settlement with Countrywide, which was made June of last year, after the FTC’s investigation uncovered severe inaccuracies in the Countrywide billings to its clients. These offenses (“Junk Fees”) include unreasonably marking up default-related fees such as inspections, maintenance services, title searches, and foreclosure trustee services, as well as falsifying charges during borrowers’ Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings. The checks amount to nearly $108 million, but this could be just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
FTC Chairman Jon Liebowitz recently remarked, “Countrywide’s unconscionable behavior harmed American consumers on a massive scale and we are proud to be getting every single dollar back to hundreds of thousands of struggling consumers who can least afford to lose the money.” The refund checks are only a portion of the FTC’s commendable work. That is, the settlement order also prohibits Countrywide, and Countrywide Home Loans Servicing LP’s successor BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, from taking advantage of borrower’s in default and/or bankruptcy.