Week Adjourned: 12.31.10

Top Lawsuits

This lawsuit is a suitable close to a year of lawsuits against big and small banks alike for conduct not befitting a cockroach.

Bank of America (BoA) and BAC Home Loans Servicing are facing a potential class action lawsuit over allegations that they refused to participate in foreclosure prevention programs even though they had accepted $25 billion in financing from the federal government through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

Lead plaintiff Susan Fraser claims that by taking the TARP funds, BoA agreed to participate in at least one TARP-authorized program to minimize foreclosures. In April 2007, BoA signed a contract with the US Treasury stating that it would comply with the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) to perform loan modifications and other foreclosure prevention services.

The suit also alleges that the HAMP program requires BoA to identify loans that are subject to modification; collect financial and other personal information from the homeowners to evaluate whether the homeowner is eligible for modification; institute a modified loan with a reduced payment amount as per a mandated formula that is effective for a three-month trial period; and provide a permanently modified loan to those homeowners who comply with the requirements during the trial period.

“Though Bank of America accepted $25 billion in TARP funds and entered into a contract obligating itself to comply with the HAMP directives and to extend loan modifications for the benefit of distressed homeowners, Bank of America has systematically failed to comply with the terms of the HAMP directives and has regularly and repeatedly violated several of its prohibitions,” the complaint states.

Wait—there’s more. The complaint also states, “Bank of America’s delay and obstruction tactics have taken various forms with the common result that homeowners with loans serviced by Bank of America, who are eligible for permanent loan modifications, and who have met the requirements for participation in the HAMP program, have not received permanent loan modifications to which they are entitled.”

If this is ringing bells with you—you may be an eligible class member—should the suit be certified as a class action. The “class” consists of all eligible homeowners who have been serviced by one or both defendants who have not received a permanent modified loan. 

Top Settlements

Levaquin Victim Awarded $1.8 Million in Damages Could this be a case of better late than never? I would have said better never than ever…but at least this gentleman will receive some justice.

An 82-year old Minnesota man, John Schedin, a former Marine, from Edin, MN, who sued Johnson & Johnson over allegations that their antibiotic Levaquin caused damage to his tendons, has been awarded $1.8 million in damages by the jury hearing his case.

The settlement breaks down as $1.1 million in punitive damages and $630,000 in compensatory damages. Five years ago, Mr. Schedin ruptured or partially ruptured both Achilles tendons after taking the antibiotic Levaquin. The jury found that Johnson & Johnson failed to provide adequate warning to patients and their physicians that Levaquin can cause tendon damage.

Notably, Schedin is among the first in a long line of patients who have suffered tendon injuries after taking Levaquin. In fact, some sources suggest that more than 2,600 levaquin lawsuits have been filed in state and federal courts nationwide. Schedin’s case is among hundreds consolidated in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis and is the first to go to trial.

Deutsche Bank to Pay $553 Million in Tax Case.  Can you Say Tax Evasion? Deutsche Bank (DB) certainly had that phrase down. And now they’re paying the price. Never mind back taxes, they’ve been hit with a $533 million settlement which they agreed to pay this week, to settle allegations of criminal wrongdoing.

Criminal wrongdoing you ask? No.

Yes! DB has been under investigation for quite some time by the US States Attorney’s Office over allegations of tax shelter fraud. So it’s your tax dollars and service fees at work here.

By settling the investigation DB will escape prosecution for its role in helping 2,100 customers evade their taxes through some 2,300 financial transactions. DB made the deal with the I.R.S. and Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.

“This settlement marks another victory in the long effort to stop financial institutions, law firms and accounting firms from designing and marketing abusive tax shelters, and facilitating those who use them,” said Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

Call me a cynic, but there will likely be more of this to come in 2011. 

Ok—That’s a wrap for 2010! Happy New Year! Here’s to a new year filled with peace and property for everyone—not just the banks…

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