Chase Steps Up Mod Efforts, Again

JP Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) announced Friday it has extended its mortgage modification program to include the approximately $1.1 trillion in investor-owned loans it services, “significantly expanding the reach and effectiveness” of its previously enacted efforts, according to the press release. “Building on our modification efforts for Chase-owned loans, we have reviewed closely the terms of our investor agreements and have worked with investors, trustees, government officials and other interested parties to fashion an approach to foreclosure prevention efforts that will work for investors and homeowners,” said Charles W. Scharf, CEO for Retail Financial Services at Chase. Chase said it will continue to seek investor approval in the small number of situations where investor agreements contain specific terms that may limit modification actions Chase can take. It was on Oct. 31 that Chase first launched an aggressive loan modification plan, while also enacting a foreclosure moratorium, in an effort to buy time and qualify existing troubled borrowers for the program. The mod plan at the time, however, only applied to owner-occupied properties with mortgages owned by Chase, WaMu or EMC — or  those instances where JPM could obtain investor approval. Under the now-revitalized loan mod program, Chase “believes it can legally modify the vast majority of mortgages owned by investors…” according to a statement, and intends to make modifications where appropriate. The company said it now has in place the people, programs and tools to help even more borrowers stay in their homes. As for Chases progress in modifying loans thus far, since its October announcement, Chase reported it has implemented a “more attractive” package of modifications for delinquent borrowers, implemented an independent review process to ensure each eligible borrower was contacted and offered modification prior to foreclosure, and added 300 new loan counselors around the nation. The program has delayed the initiation of foreclosure on over $22 billion of Chase-owned mortgages of over 80,000 homeowners, giving Chase time to review those mortgages for possible modifications under the program — although, for some borrowers, it has essentially delayed the inevitable, as everyone isn’t eligible for modification. Chase has also worked with Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE) to implement their new Streamlined Modification Program for borrowers at least 90 days delinquent —  yet, another example of the group effort — whether right or wrong, helpful or hurtful — to keep people in their homes amid a foreclosure frenzy like no other. “When homes are foreclosed, everybody suffers, so working aggressively to modify all loans -whether owned by Chase or owned by others – on terms that should work for the borrower, makes good sense for everyone,” Scharf said. “Our experience at Chase has shown that when mortgages are properly modified, using income verification and other appropriate criteria, they perform very well over time.” Write to Kelly Curran at Disclosure: The authors held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade.

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