Two members of the Citigroup Inc. family have been ordered to pay nearly $29 million for giving troubled homeowners the runaround when they tried to save their homes. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced the actions against CitiFinancial Servicing and CitiMortgage today.
The agency said the mortgage servicers kept borrowers in the dark about options to avoid foreclosure or burdened them with excessive paperwork demands in applying for foreclosure relief. The CFPB is requiring CitiMortgage to pay an estimated $17 million to compensate wronged consumers, as well as a civil penalty of $3 million; CitiFinancial Services will also be required to refund approximately $4.4 million to consumers and pay a civil penalty of $4.4 million.
“Citi’s subsidiaries gave the runaround to borrowers who were already struggling with their mortgage payments and trying to save their homes,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Consumers were kept in the dark about their options or burdened with excessive paperwork. This action will put money back in consumers’ pockets and make sure borrowers can get help they need.”
As a mortgage servicer, CitiFinancial Servicing collects payments from borrowers for loans it originates. It also handles customer service, collections, loan modifications, and foreclosures.
The CFPB said the company:
- Kept consumers in the dark about foreclosure relief options: When borrowers applied to have their payments deferred, CitiFinancial Servicing failed to consider it as a request for foreclosure relief options. As a result, borrowers may have missed out on options that may have been more appropriate for them.
- Misled consumers about the impact of deferring payment due dates: Consumers were kept in the dark about the true impact of postponing a payment due date. CitiFinancial Servicing misled borrowers into thinking that if they deferred the payment, the additional interest would be added to the end of the loan rather than become due when the deferment ended. In fact, the deferred interest became due immediately.
- Charged consumers for credit insurance that should have been canceled: Some borrowers bought CitiFinancial Servicing credit insurance, which is meant to cover the loan if the borrower can’t make the payments. Under its terms, CitiFinancial Servicing was supposed to cancel the insurance if the borrower missed four or more monthly payments. But between July 2011 and April 30, 2015, about 7,800 borrowers paid for credit insurance that CitiFinancial Servicing should have canceled under those terms.
- Prematurely canceled credit insurance for some borrowers: CitiFinancial Servicing prematurely canceled credit insurance for some consumers. Some of those borrowers later had claims denied because CitiFinancial Servicing had improperly canceled their insurance.
- Sent inaccurate consumer information to credit reporting companies: CitiFinancial Servicing incorrectly reported some settled accounts as being charged off.
- Failed to investigate consumer disputes: CitiFinancial did not investigate consumer disputes about incorrect information sent to credit reporting companies within the required time period.
The full text of the CitiFinancial Servicing consent order is available online.
CitiMortgage is a mortgage servicer for Citibank and government-sponsored entities such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It also fields consumer requests for foreclosure relief, such as repayment plans, loan modification, or short sales.
Borrowers at risk of foreclosure or otherwise struggling with their mortgage payments can apply to their servicer for foreclosure relief. In this process, the servicer requests documentation of the borrower’s finances for evaluation.
However, some borrowers who asked for assistance were sent a letter by CitiMortgage demanding dozens of documents and forms that had no bearing on the application or that the consumer had already provided. Many of these documents had nothing to do with a borrower’s financial circumstances and were actually not needed to complete the application.
The full text of the CitiMortgage consent order is available online.