Chase Home Finance LLC, a unit of JP Morgan Chase & Co., has agreed to pay $48.4 million for overcharging servicemembers on their mortgages and illegally foreclosing on them. A federal judge in South Carolina has approved the settlement. Hopefully, this will help send a message to financial institutions that this is an important issue. It is incomprehensible how any persons with a bank or loan company could take advantage of members of the U.S. military or their families.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has been investigating several mortgage and lending companies for wrongful foreclosures against military personnel. This settlement certifies a class of about 6,000 military members who have Chase mortgages and whose rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) were violated. Fortunately, for some class members, the settlement means they will get their homes back.
The SCRA gives servicemembers the right to have their interest rates reduced to 6 percent when on active duty, and it specifically prevents lenders from foreclosing on active-duty servicemembers unless they have a court order. The purpose of SCRA is:
to provide for, strengthen, and expedite the national defense through protection extended by this act . . . to servicemembers of the United States to enable such persons to devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the nation.
Richard Harpootlian, a lawyer from Columbia, S.C., represented the Plaintiffs and did a very good job. He should be commended for taking on this very important case and the lender involved should be ashamed of what it did.
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