Earlier this year, Bluestem noted work by Tim Walz and other members of the House Veterans' Affair Committee to enforce and strengthen the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Walz challenged a bank executive testifying before the committee and introduced legislation to help military families who have a member deployed.
The bi-partisan pressure is working. On Saturday, the Washington Post reported in J.P. MorganChase to pay $27 million to settle lawsuit over military mortgages:
J.P. Morgan Chase said Friday it will pay $27 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that accused the bank of overcharging members of the military for their mortgages and prompted a federal investigation, a congressional hearing as well as public outrage.
In the suit, Marine Corps Capt. Jonathon Rowles charged that the bank refused to lower the interest rate on his mortgage, as required under a federal law, after he was activated for duty. When Rowles refused to pay the higher rate, the bank called his home up to three times a day and threatened to foreclose, according to the suit, which was filed in July.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) prohibits lenders from charging active-duty members of the military more than 6 percent interest on their mortgages. It also prevents banks from foreclosing on their homes during service and for nine months afterward.
Under the terms of the settlement, the bank will give $12 million to the estimated 6,000 service members covered by the suit. It will also set up a $15 million fund for additional individual damages, to be disbursed by a third party. The firm said it has already issued $6 million to service members who were overcharged. A judge is slated to issue preliminary approval to the settlement in late May. . . .
And the article closes with note of Walz's legislation:
Chase still faces several challenges on Capitol Hill and from federal regulators. The Justice Department has opened an investigation into the bank, along with Saxon Mortgage. A department spokeswoman said Friday that the case is ongoing.
Meanwhile, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has introduced a bill that would double the criminal and civil penalties for foreclosing on active-duty service members or for other violations of the SCRA. It would also extend service members’ grace period from foreclosure from nine months to 24. Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) introduced a similar proposal in the House last week. Both bills await votes in committee.
“I hope this settlement will help rectify the harm that Chase caused to military families, and I urge other lenders to own up to their mistakes,” Whitehouse said in an e-mail Friday. “But this settlement does not wipe the slate clean, and we should still take action to make sure these mistakes are not repeated.”
Props to those sticking up for the legal rights of military families.