Lawmakers seek foreclosure investigations

WASHINGTON Wed Oct 6, 2010 1:37am EDT

A foreclosed home is shown in Chicago in this June 29, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/John Gress

A foreclosed home is shown in Chicago in this June 29, 2010 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/John Gress

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - California Democrats in the House of Representatives are calling for federal investigations into whether financial institutions broke any laws in their handling of foreclosures in the midst of the housing crisis.

Reports from thousands of homeowners in their congressional districts show an "apparent pattern" of practices that led to foreclosures that could have been avoided, the lawmakers wrote in an October 4 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and the Treasury Department.

The letter was signed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and 30 California lawmakers.

"The excuses we have heard from financial institutions are simply not credible three years into this crisis. People in our districts are hurting," the letter said. "It is time that banks are held accountable for their practices that have left too many homeowners without real help."

The lawmakers said thousands of people have reported that despite efforts to seek loan modifications or other relief many financial institutions "routinely fail to respond in a timely manner, misplace requested documents, and send mixed signals" about what is required to avoid foreclosures.

At least six states are investigating the foreclosure procedures at Ally Financial Inc or JPMorgan Chase or both.

Ally, formerly known as GMAC, revealed last month that officials had signed thousands of affidavits supporting foreclosure proceedings without having personal knowledge of the borrowers' situations.

A seventh state, Texas, on Tuesday halted all foreclosures, sales of foreclosed properties and evictions from foreclosed properties until foreclosure practices are reviewed.

(Editing by Eric Beech)