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Top U.S. banks faulted on correcting foreclosure abuses

Customers use ATMs at a Bank of America banking center in New York's financial district January 17, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Customers use ATMs at a Bank of America banking center in New York's financial district January 17, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Aruna Viswanatha

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top U.S. banks, including Bank of America Corp and Citigroup Inc , failed to fully comply with a government settlement to correct mortgage servicing abuses, a monitor of the settlement said on Wednesday.

Bank of America failed to file accurate documents in bankruptcy proceedings, and Citi's mortgage unit failed to notify borrowers about missing documents within 30 days of a request for a short sale, the monitor, Joseph Smith Jr., said.

The two banks have submitted plans to fix those problems and are in the process of correcting earlier failures, he said. JPMorgan Chase & Co was also cited in Smith's report.

The problems stem from a $25 billion deal between federal and state authorities and five top mortgage servicers in 2012 designed to end foreclosure abuses.

Under the settlement, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo & Co and Residential Capital LLC were required to improve their procedures for dealing with struggling borrowers. They were also required to submit to dozens of tests to measure their improvement.

In a statement, Bank of America said it has "worked diligently" to comply with the terms of the settlement and to ensure struggling borrowers know they are being treated fairly.

The problems with the bankruptcy filings were limited to one quarter and impacted a "relatively small population," the bank said. It also said none of the problems resulted in inaccurate foreclosures or improper denials of requests to modify loans.

Citigroup said in a statement that it "remains committed to fulfilling the terms" of the settlement. It said it became aware of certain problems last May and took steps to fix them.

Wells Fargo did not fail any tests this year, according to Smith's report.

Smith said in a statement that while the banks still have additional work to do, he was hopeful the fixes would improve how borrowers are treated.

JPMorgan failed in some instances in 2013 to make decisions on borrower applications to modify loans within a timetable required, and it failed a test that measures whether a pre-foreclosure notice sent to customers was accurate, according to the report.

Smith said those problems were not widespread at the bank and that JPMorgan had fixed the problems and compensated harmed borrowers.

A JPMorgan representative said in a statement, "We proactively addressed the monitor's findings and are pleased that he determined that our corrective action plan is complete."

In October, Bank of America and Wells Fargo pledged to improve communications with borrowers seeking to modify their loans, after authorities found additional problems not covered by the 2012 deal.

One state, New York, accused Wells Fargo in federal court of breaching the terms of the $25 billion deal and said the bank did not go far enough in its commitments. That dispute is pending.

(Reporting by Aruna Viswanatha; Editing by Krista Hughes and John Wallace)

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