Katherine Porter is appointed by California's attorney general to see that banks fulfill their pledges quickly after the nationwide settlement over foreclosure abuses.
Reporting from Washington and Los Angeles—Ambitious programs to help struggling homeowners often have failed to live up to their hype, consumer law expert Katherine Porter said.
Now the UC Irvine law professor will be in a position to make sure Californians get everything they've been promised by the country's largest banks in the recent $25-billion nationwide settlement over foreclosure abuses.
California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris on Friday named Porter as her independent monitor of the state's portion of the deal — as much as $18 billion worth of relief to homeowners over the next three years.
"I'm going to be checking to make sure the rules are being followed," Porter said. "We need to restore confidence that financial institutions are doing the right thing."
Porter will work with the national settlement monitor, Joseph Smith, a former North Carolina banking commissioner, to ensure that the five largest mortgage servicers — Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co.,Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Ally Financial Inc. — deliver on their agreements.
Porter will review filings by the banks about their compliance, as well as complaints and other feedback from homeowners.
The settlement among the banks, attorneys general in 49 states and federal officials resolved investigations into botched foreclosure paperwork and other mortgage servicing problems.
Three of the banks, BofA, Chase and Wells Fargo, agreed to provide California homeowners with a total of at least $12 billion in principal reductions and short-sale relief over the next three years.
Through a complex series of credits the banks would receive for assisting homeowners, often at less than $1 credit for each dollar of principal reduction, the actual aid to state residents could reach $18 billion.
Government officials filed the settlement with a federal court this week. If the deal is approved, as expected, the banks will begin outreach to eligible homeowners, with incentives to offer assistance in the first year.
The government has set up a website at http://www.nationalmortgagesettlement.com with information for homeowners.
Harris said Porter's appointment was central to enforcing the settlement's terms.
"Professor Porter's wealth of experience and knowledge will protect the interests of homeowners and ensure the settling banks deliver on their promises," Harris said.
A specialist in foreclosures and bankruptcy, Porter performed a study in 2007 that offered evidence of the types of mortgage servicing abuses and foreclosure shortcuts that later erupted into national controversy.
Among the accusations against the banks that led to the settlement was a practice called robo-signing, in which bank employees pushed homes into foreclosure without even reading the documents.
Much of the focus would be on California-specific promises that the attorney general's office worked out separately with the banks, including outreach efforts to the hardest-hit areas of the state. The most important job will be to ensure that the banks fulfill their pledges quickly, Porter said.
"The attorney general has made clear that they need to get the relief out there in a timely fashion," Porter said.
Porter is a former student of Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law School professor who led a watchdog committee that oversaw the federal government's $700-billion bank bailout fund. Warren helped launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Porter, who is on maternity leave from UC Irvine, said details of her appointment, including time commitment and compensation, have yet to be worked out, but the university has indicated it will provide whatever flexibility she needs.