Judge Christopher Klein of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sacramento issued a $45 million fine against Bank of America Corp., calling the treatment of a California couple who fought to save their home “brazen” and “heartless.” According to Judge Klein, the bank’s mortgage modification process and mistaken foreclosure on Erik and Renee Sundquist’s home left them in a “state of battle-fatigued demoralization.”
“It is apparent that the engine of Bank of America’s problem in this case is one of corporate culture… not rogue employees betraying an upstanding employer,” Judge Klein said. He added that he hopes the fine is large enough that it will not be “laughed off in the boardroom as petty cash or ‘chump change’.” Most of the money from the fine will go to law schools and consumer advocacy organizations.
The Sundquists’ financial troubles started in 2008 after their construction business closed down due to the economic downturn. The couple later bought a cheaper home outside of Sacramento and borrowed approximately $590,000 from a lender that was later taken over by Bank of America. After which, the bank promised them that they could request lower monthly payments. However, in 2009 when the couple stopped making payments, Bank of America officials said they would not consider a loan modification. Over the next few years, the couple requested loan modifications approximately 20 times. Each time their requests were “routinely either lost or declared insufficient, or incomplete or stale or in need of resubmission or denied without comprehensible explanation,” the ruling said.
In 2010 the couple filed for bankruptcy which halts foreclosure sales. However, the bank still improperly took over the home and gave them a three-day eviction notice. A few weeks after the couple moved out, Ms. Sundquist was hospitalized with stress-related heart attack symptoms.
Bank of America later reversed the sale but never formally notified the couple of the change. According to the ruling, they moved back in several months later.
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