Volume is not an excuse for violating someone’s rights

Moral hazard! Personal responsibility!

Oh, come on. It’s a lot more important in the big picture to keep the banks from being pestered from the consequences of their indifference to laws that only apply to little people:

WASHINGTON — Top policymakers at the Federal Reserve are fighting efforts to rein in widely reported bank abuses, sparking an inter-agency feud with the FDIC and the Treasury Department. The Fed, along with the more bank-friendly Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, is resisting moves to craft rules cracking down on banks that charge illegal fees and carry out improper foreclosures. The FDIC supports such rules, according to an FDIC official involved in the dispute.

The new regulations would rein in debt collection, loan modification and foreclosure proceedings at bank divisions called “mortgage servicers.” Servicers have committed widespread fraud in the foreclosure process. While the recent robo-signing of fraudulent documents has received the most attention, consumer advocates have complained about improper fees and servicer mistakes that lead to foreclosure for years.

[…] On Tuesday, more than fifty economists, banking experts and consumer advocates sent an open letter to banking regulators demanding action on mortgage servicers. Many of the proposed rules are simple standards of banking conduct, like appropriately crediting borrower accounts when they make payments. But most mortgage servicers are effectively unregulated at the moment. The OCC, which oversees the largest servicers, has never taken any formal public regulatory action against a mortgage servicer, allowing abuses to continue without serious consequences.

“Widely reported servicer fraud, whether in the foreclosure process or in the systematic assessment of illegal fees against homeowners, is . . . a serious problem,” the letter reads, noting that, “problems of this magnitude are a threat not only to the economic recovery, but to the safety and soundness of all insured depository institutions.”

The Wall Street reform bill signed into law by President Barack Obama this summer requires regulators to craft new rules to ensure the securitization market functions properly. The FDIC wants those rules to include standards for mortgage servicer conduct and hopes to have rules ready by the end of next month.

Nevertheless, the Fed and the OCC are pushing back, according to a source at the FDIC. Spokespeople from both the Fed and the OCC said their agencies support new mortgage servicing standards but declined to comment on the new rules being advocated by the FDIC. A spokesman for the Treasury Department said the Treasury supports regulating mortgage servicers, but was unable to comment on the FDIC plan by press time..

Apparently the banks are arguing that just because they screw up a few foreclosures, it’s no big deal considering how many they do in a month:

More common are cases like Ms. Ash’s, in which a homeowner was behind on payments, perhaps trying to work out a modification, when bank crews changed the locks.

In Florida, contractors working for Chase Bank used a screwdriver to enter Debra Fischer’s house in Punta Gorda and helped themselves to a laptop, an iPod, a cordless drill, six bottles of wine and a frosty beer, left half-empty on the counter, according to assertions in a lawsuit filed in August. Ms. Fisher was facing foreclosure, but Chase had not yet obtained a court order, her lawyer says.

Chase Bank? Would that be this Chase Bank? The one whose employee just filed a whistleblower case with the SEC, charging all kinds of nefarious illegal practices — including shredding proofs of payment sent by creditors? The one who fired the employee for pointing these things out?

The break-in was discovered when a Canadian couple renting the house returned from the beach.

Chase officials said such behavior by its contractors, if determined to be true, would be considered unacceptable and corrective action would be taken. Banks and their contractors insist that the number of mistakes is minuscule given the hundreds of thousands of new foreclosure cases filed each month. Bank of America, for instance, says it works with third-party contractors to inspect and maintain more than one million properties each month and has enhanced its controls in the last year to prevent mistakes.

Alan Jaffa, chief executive of Safeguard Properties, which inspects and maintains foreclosed properties for mortgage servicers, acknowledged that a handful of mistakes had been made. In most instances, he said, his company provided a valuable service that protected properties and neighborhoods.

“There is a stigma that we go in, kick the door in and throw grandma out head first and board up the windows,” Mr. Jaffa said. “We are doing a lot of good out there.”

But Alan M. White, a consumer law expert at Valparaiso University in Indiana, says: “Volume is not an excuse for violating someone’s rights.”