Notification Begins to Borrowers Eligible for Payments from $335 Million Lending Discrimination Settlement Between the Department of Justice and Countrywide Financial Corporation (United States v. Countrywide Financial Corp., et al. (C.D. Cal., December 2011)
Independent Settlement Administrator Rust Consulting, Inc. on November 16, 2012 began mailing letters to borrowers whom the United States has identified as entitled to payments from the Countrywide lending discrimination settlement fund. The letters notify recipients that they have been identified as victims, list the minimum payments they can receive, and include response forms.
Borrowers receiving letters must sign and mail their response form by April 26, 2013 to participate in the settlement. The response form is designed to be easy to complete, and it can be returned using the prepaid envelope enclosed with the letter. In mid 2013, the Settlement Administrator plans to mail a letter with the exact payment amount and a release form to those who return the response form. Individuals with questions about the United States v. Countrywide Financial Corporation lending discrimination settlement may contact Rust, in English or Spanish, by telephone at 1-800-843-5148 or by email at info@CWFLSettlement.com.
The $335 million settlement fund being administered by Rust was created as part of resolving the United States' allegations that Countrywide Financial Corporation and its subsidiaries engaged in a widespread pattern or practice of discrimination against more than 200,000 qualified Hispanic and African-American borrowers across the country who received mortgage loans from 2004 through 2008, as well as allegations of discrimination on the basis of marital status by encouraging non-applicant spouses to sign away their rights in jointly-held property when the applicant spouse took out a loan in his or her own name. Letters will go out at a later date to borrowers potentially affected by the alleged marital status discrimination.
The settlement, which was approved by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, provided for an independent settlement administrator (Rust) to contact and distribute compensation payments at no cost to borrowers whom the department identifies as victims of Countrywide's discrimination. Rust's activities are overseen by the Department of Justice, and all of Rust's costs and expenses will be paid by Countrywide.
A copy of the United States' lending discrimination complaint against Countrywide, the approved settlement order, and additional information about fair lending enforcement by the Department of Justice, can be found on the Department's website at www.justice.gov/fairhousing.
The letters being mailed out beginning November 16 are the first mailing being sent to victims relating to the Countrywide lending discrimination settlement, although many Countrywide borrowers have previously received legitimate letters relating to other settlements with Countrywide not related to discrimination. Countrywide borrowers should treat with caution any mailings or phone calls that tell borrowers they must pay to participate in the settlement, or contacts that do not come from Rust related to the lending discrimination settlement, as such letters might be part of a scam. All mailings from Rust related to the lending discrimination settlement will have the seal of the United States Department of Justice and use the return address "Countrywide Fair Lending Settlement Administrator, c/o Rust Consulting, PO Box 8048, Faribault, MN 55021," and will ask victims to return response forms to that address. Any potential scams related to the Countrywide lending discrimination settlement should be reported to Rust by telephone at 1-800-843-5148, or to the Department of Justice at 202-514-4713.
Today's announcement only addresses the Department of Justice's December 2011, $335 million settlement resolving claims that Countrywide discriminated in making loans. It is separate from the March 2012, $25 billion settlement between the Justice Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 49 state attorneys general and the nation's five largest mortgage servicers to address mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure abuses. Individuals can obtain more information about that separate mortgage servicing settlement by visiting www.nationalmortgagesettlement.com. Countrywide borrowers can contact Bank of America at 1-877-488-7814 to obtain information about loan modifications or other relief that they may qualify for under that separate settlement.