Home Front

A blog about the economy and the Sacramento-area real estate market.

October 9, 2008
An earful about the Bank of America/Countrywide settlement
 My phone has rung off the hook since Tuesday's story about Bank of America agreeing to rewrite $8.7 billion worth of mortgages originated by Countrywide Financial Corp., the ailing lender it bought for pennies on the dollar in July.

 I think it's up now to about 20 callers on the line at various times asking how they can find out more, learn if they're eligible and get on a list for help. The problem is I can't offer a number since Bank of America hasn't provided one. It just says it is staffing an office now that will start on Dec. 1 to identify who needs help and who will get it.

  This all stems from a legal settlement with Calif. Attorney General Jerry Brown and other attorneys general alleging that Countrywide used fraud and deception in originating risky loans that earned it huge commissions.

  What an earful I've had since. People from Sacramento, Stockton, Dixon and even Los Angeles, pouring our tales of sleepless nights and loans that are consuming their savings and that of their relatives trying to keep them above water. Some have called on behalf of their kids or a neighbor. I have referred some of them to non profit loan counselors. A couple of the callers have been small-time investors who bought a rental and don't qualify for any help. Always, there is this great weariness, this fear on the line. These people are worn down.

A lot of people think everyone who  got in over their heads with a bad loan should go down with the ship, lose the house, let the market flush them out. There's a case for that, sure. It seems to be the outcome that's happening most often.

But it's sure hard imagining yourself in these peoples' shoes. These are real people who regret not looking at the details of loan papers set in front of them. They could kick themselves. Why didn't they see it? They have pick-a-payment Option ARMS that are getting bigger. They have resets that costing them more of the check every month. One guy said his wife died last year and her Social Security was part of the income stream for his mortgage. In the background was his television set. He was babysitting the grandkids. He said the Countrywide loan is taking 43 percent of his income.

 Bottom line, I can't tell who is innocent or guilty, who should have been smarter or who foolishly refinanced to buy a boat and other toys. I don't know how this is going to work out for all these people. I just know a lot of people read the story and suddenly realized they might have an out, after all. Always, on the line, you can hear the fear and the shame and the embarrassment. I hope for a lot of them they get to some kind of happy ending.

 I know I've heard just a fraction of all the loan trouble that is swirling now through Sacramento.  Have to run. Here's another call.

About Comments

Reader comments on Sacbee.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the "report abuse" button below it. We will delete comments containing inappropriate links, obscenities, hate speech, and personal attacks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. See more about comments here.

What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com

Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "report abuse" button to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand. If you want to discuss an issue with a specific user, click on his profile name and send him a direct message.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "report abuse" button to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at feedback@sacbee.com. Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them, but you may ask our staff to retract one of your comments by sending an email to feedback@sacbee.com. Again, make sure you note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us your profile name.

hide comments

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from sacbee.com. While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on sacbee.com and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.

Jim Wasserman on Twitter

Follow "jimwasserman" on Twitter

October 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31