News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 14, 2013

U.S. Attorney: Countrywide victims sought

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — At least 400 Hoosiers still have an opportunity to collect their portion of a $335 million lawsuit settlement from former mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp., accused of discriminatory lending practices from 2004 to 2008, U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett said Wednesday in Terre Haute.

However, affected African-American and Hispanic borrowers must act quickly as the settlement deadline is March 29.

A settlement was reached in 2011 between the U.S. Department of Justice and Countrywide after it was alleged that Countrywide discriminated by charging more than 200,000 Hispanic and African-American borrowers in 41 states and the District of Columbia higher fees and rates than non-Hispanic White borrowers because of their race or national origin.

Of those, about 1,600 Hoosiers were impacted and 5,000 people in Illinois.

Since 2011 a settlement administrator has been working to contact African-Americans and Hispanics who borrowed from Countrywide between 2004 and 2008. So far, more than 1,200 Hoosiers have received a payment, ranging from $3,000 to $20,000 under the settlement, said Hogsett, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.

However, “some [lending] victims over the course of the last 5 to 10 years have moved, leaving no forwarding addresses. Maybe they have no relatives in the area or maybe they are not particularly paying attention to news reports as it relates to this historic and significant settlement,” Hogsett said.

Any person who may believe they have been a victim of alleged lending discrimination by Countrywide should contact Rust Consulting, the independent settlement administrator, at 800-843-5148 or by email at infor@CWFLSettlement.com. Information on the settlement is available in both English and Spanish, Hogsett said.

“Don’t wait until next week or even don’t wait until tomorrow. Try to call the toll free number or use the email today,” Hogsett said.

Between 2004 and 2008, Countrywide was one of the largest single-family mortgage lenders in the U.S. During that period, Countrywide originated more than 4.4 million residential mortgage loans, according to the Department of Justice. Between 2004 and 2007, Countrywide reported total net earnings of about $6.7 billion.

“This was a time in our country’s history when mortgage fraud was rapid,” Hogsett said. “Thousands of individuals were defrauded and otherwise compromised in their attempt to achieve, in what we all seek as part of the American dream, and that is home ownership.”

In 2008, Bank of America purchased embattled Countrywide Financial for $4 billion.

“My recommendation is, if you are African-American or Latino and if you had any kind of financial arrangement with Countrywide during any point in time in the last 10 to 15 years, I would at least make a phone call,” Hogsett said, including if a person had a loan foreclosure.

“Maybe the answer is you are not [part of the settlement], but none the less, knowing that is better than just leaving it unanswered and you might be out money that way,” Hogsett said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.

greninger@tribstar.com.

Check it out

• Any African-American or Hispanic borrower who may believe they have been a victim of alleged lending discrimination by Countrywide Financial Corp. between 2004 and 2008 should contact Rust Consulting, an independent settlement administrator, at 1-800-843-5148 or by email at infor@CWFLSettlement.com.

• Information on a $335 million settlement between Countrywide and the U.S Department of Justice is available in both English and Spanish.