California Backs out of Foreclosure Probe as Banks Fire Up Foreclosures

California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris will no longer take part in a national foreclosure probe of some of the nation’s biggest banks, which are accused of pervasive misconduct in dealing with troubled homeowners.

Harris removed herself from talks by a coalition of state attorneys general and federal agencies investigating abusive foreclosure practices because the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers were not offering California homeowners relief commensurate to what people in the state had suffered, Harris told The Times on Friday.

A big August surge in foreclosure actions by Bank of America and Bank of New York sent the number of California homeowners entering foreclosure to levels not seen in a year. The third-quarter jump in notices of default, the first formal step in the foreclosure process, came after such filings had dropped to a three-year low earlier this year. Defaults were up 25.9% from the prior quarter, according to according to San Diego-based DataQuick, a real estate information service.

Banks have fired up the foreclosure-processing machinery in recent months after a long lull as they tried to negotiate settlements with regulators over faulty foreclosure practices. That slowdown created a backlog after a slew of investigations were launched following last year’s so-called robo-signing scandal, where banks used improper practices and documents to foreclose on troubled homeowners.

Experts said that banks are probably waiting for some kind of settlement to be hammered out before really picking up the pace on foreclosures again. The increase in new California proceedings comes as talks over a broad foreclosure settlement by state attorneys general with the nation’s five-largest mortgage servicers have experienced setbacks — dragging on far longer than expected.

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