Banks held accountable for foreclosure abuses against active-duty military

CRAIG D. FRAZIER Special to the AmNews | 7/27/2011, 11:37 a.m.

While courageous soldiers are risking their lives for our country, many are fighting a heartbreaking battle at home.

In violation of laws intended to protect active military personnel from creditors, banks are foreclosing on their homes, forcing families of servicemen to move out and find shelter elsewhere. According to the Government Accountability Office, two of the nation's largest mortgage firms illegally foreclosed on the homes of active-duty military service members.

Last week during a House Oversight Committee hearing with Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings moved to subpoena mortgage service companies that have engaged in illegal foreclosures and other abuses against U.S. service members in violation of federal law.

Warren is on the side of these service members and their families. Holly Petraeus, wife of Gen. David Petraeus, is head of the Office of Servicemember Affairs. They have joined with the judge advocate general to protect service members from banks.

With the support of all Democratic members in attendance, Cummings made the case for a thorough, comprehensive review of these problems.

"I am encouraged that the chairman agreed to join me in this bipartisan effort to hold the mortgage servicing companies accountable for widespread abuses against our men and women in uniform," Cummings said. "We owe it to our service members to conduct a thorough investigation into these widespread, systemic and growing problems."

Chairman Darrell Issa offered to join Cummings in sending official document requests on behalf of the committee to 10 of the nation's largest mortgage servicing companies, seeking internal audits, reports, communications and emails relating to abuses affecting U.S. service members.

In April, JP Morgan lost a class-action suit, which awarded $56 million to troops for violating the Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act. The act is a federal law that gives all military members important protection as they enter and are on active duty. In a similar case, Deutsche Bank was sued for illegally foreclosing on a soldier.