Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt Announces Nation’s First Mortgage Settlement Payouts
Monday, October 15, 2012
- Organization: Oklahoma Attorney General
Pruitt Announces Nation’s First Mortgage Settlement Payouts; New Housing Initiatives for Oklahoma Homeowners, Veterans
OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Scott Pruitt Monday issued the first mortgage compensation checks in the nation to Oklahoma families who were victims of unfair and deceptive practices by five national servicers following the financial crisis.
Oklahoma was the only state to craft its own agreement with Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, GMAC and Wells Fargo, which allowed the Attorney General’s Office to provide compensation up to 20 times more than the payments residents in other states are expected to receive under the federal settlement.
“These families endured horrendous conduct, lost their homes in many cases and deserve more than an “I’m sorry” and a few hundred dollars,” Pruitt said. “It is very exciting to be able to provide these Oklahoma families some meaningful relief for the harm caused, and a chance at a fresh start.”
On Monday, the AG’s Public Protection Unit, which manages the state settlement, mailed the first installment of checks to more than 100 Oklahomans. Checks will be mailed to recipients each week through the end of January. Families that qualify under one of two main categories receive a minimum of $5,000. Some families will receive as much as $20,000.
One of those families – Zach and Melissa Zuniga of Tulsa – was told by their bank that a mortgage modification was possible. The bank lost paperwork, could never tell the family what department was handling their loan and, after sending the family a letter stating the loan was paid in full, ultimately foreclosed on the house. Three days after their home was sold at a sheriff’s sale, they received a third modification packet from the bank in the mail, stating the bank wanted to help them avoid foreclosure. The Zunigas, victims of dual-tracking, had 14 days to move themselves and their three children out of the house that had been in their family for 23 years.
On Monday, General Pruitt presented the Zunigas with a $20,000 check during a news conference in Oklahoma City.
“What happened to us was horrible. We have been working to start over and $20,000 will allow us to pay off all of our debt and get a new home,” said Zach Zuniga whose wife is expecting their fourth child in December. “It couldn’t have come at a better time and we are so grateful General Pruitt stood his ground and was there for families like ours. This will be life-changing.”
The amount awarded to Oklahoma families will range from $5,000-$20,000 – a maximum that could be more than 20 times the money awarded under the federal settlement. The latest estimates show residents in other states could receive as little as $840 from the federal fund.
Many of the 49 states that participated in the federal settlement are using the money they receive under the federal settlement to fund various areas unrelated to housing. The areas include the state’s general fund, higher education, marketing and additional staff for AG’s offices. No other state is currently sending direct payments to residents.
More than 700 Oklahomans applied for relief from the Oklahoma Mortgage Settlement Fund, with an average payment so far of $11,000.
“There was a fair share of skeptics when we chose to make our own Oklahoma agreement apart from 49 other states, but we took what we learned from the 50-state investigation and created a plan that will help Oklahomans in a significant way,” Pruitt said.
Along with direct payments to residents, the Attorney General’s Office is partnering with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Bar Association and Oklahoma Lawyers for America’s Heroes Program to help families more successfully navigate mortgage issues, and increase the chance of staying in their homes.
For more information or to complete a form for the AG's new Resolution Oklahoma Voucher Program, go online to www.oag.ok.gov.