JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Citigroup Inc. (CITI), and Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) must face claims over home foreclosure practices in a lawsuit brought by the Massachusetts attorney general, a judge ruled.
Allegations that the banks violated state law by conducting invalid foreclosures can proceed, according to a decision by Justice Judith Fabricant of Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston dated Nov. 30.
Invalid foreclosures resulting in properties with clouded titles may have caused harm to third-party purchasers “and the real estate market as a whole, and thereby to the public,” Fabricant wrote.
The three banks along with Bank of America Corp. and Ally Financial Inc. (ALLY)’s GMAC Mortgage were sued last year by Attorney General Martha Coakley. Coakley accused the lenders of using fraudulent documents in home foreclosures, foreclosing without legal authority, undermining public land records and misrepresenting loan-modification programs.
Some of the claims in the lawsuit were settled as part of a $25 billion agreement between the banks and 49 states reached earlier this year.
Coakley claimed the banks violated the state’s consumer protection law by initiating foreclosures on homes before holding the mortgage. Fabricant said that claim could move forward against the banks except Bank of America. The judge said the state didn’t identify “any instance” in which the bank conducted a foreclosure sale when it didn’t hold the mortgage, the judge said.
Fabricant dismissed claims related to the registering of real estate records.
Bank of America spokesman Lawrence Grayson said the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank is pleased with the decision. Wells Fargo spokeswoman Vickee Adams said the San Francisco-based lender “will continue to represent our point of view” in the litigation. Danielle Romero-Apsilos, a spokeswoman for New York-based Citigroup, declined to comment. Representatives for GMAC and JPMorgan didn’t respond to requests seeking comment.
Brad Puffer, a Coakley spokesman, said the office was reviewing the decision.
The case is Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Bank of America NA, 11-4363, Suffolk County Superior Court (Boston).