Faulty mortgages and foreclosures cost banks billions

September 16, 2011: Faulty mortgages and foreclosure abuses have cost the nation’s five biggest home lenders at least $65.7 billion, according to a tally by Bloomberg News, and new claims may push the industrywide total to twice that amount.

Bank of America Corp. (BAC), the largest U.S. lender, had the biggest costs, totaling $39.1 billion since the start of 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), ranked second by assets, followed with $16.3 billion, and Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), the biggest U.S. home lender, had $5.09 billion, the data show.

The costs have eclipsed predictions from bankers and analysts that lenders would suffer only modest damage from what Bank of America Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan has called “the mortgage mess.” Paul Miller, the FBR Capital Markets & Co. analyst, said costs for all banks could surpass $121 billion as the bill comes due for lax lending practices.

“You’re not talking about improperly stapling together two documents, you’re talking about systematic fraud in the system,” Neil Barofsky, the former special inspector general for the U.S. Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, said in an interview. “What this shows is that before the financial crisis, the banks were essentially lying to the purchasers of the mortgages about the quality.”

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