A record-setting $13 billion settlement could be announced as early as today between J.P. Morgan Chase and the U.S. Justice Department. It would resolve multiple accusations and investigations of alleged bad behavior relating to mortgages and mortgage-backed bonds. These were pumped into the financial markets before the housing bubble burst — both by J.P. Morgan Chase, and by Washington Mutual, the failing savings-and-loan that J.P. Morgan bought with government encouragement in the midst of the financial crisis.
With this anticipated settlement, J.P. Morgan is poised to get out from under most of the legal and financial liability hanging over it. However, bank employees could still face criminal charges over lending practices.
Four billion dollars would reportedly go to consumer relief. That would include loan modification to help underwater homeowners reduce principal and monthly payments to stay in their homes.
Also, “there’s an affordable housing piece,” explains Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, “to help people who may be falling outside of the normal mortgage underwriting, helping them to get loans. There’s also a piece to try to deal with urban blight: neighborhoods where there are foreclosed homes in disrepair and you’ve got squatters coming in. Those are quite unusual.”
Cecala points out that the consumer relief will be limited. It’ll only help homeowners who are eligible for loan modification and have their mortgages with J.P. Morgan Chase. Competitors Wells Fargo and Bank of America are significantly bigger players in the mortgage market.