Marketplace investigates: Where does bank fine money go?

Marketplace investigates: Where does bank fine money go?

On Aug. 21, 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder walked to the podium at the Department of Justice flanked by officials and made an announcement: “The Department of Justice has reached an agreement with Bank of America totalling over This constitutes the largest civil settlement with a single entity in history.” By some estimates, financial institutions have coughed up some $250 billion tied to the meltdown. “The justice department has reached a settlement of about $5 billion…” “JPMorgan Chase is about to pay for its role….” “The deal stems from the bank’s role just before the 2008 financial crisis.” That $250 Billion, that’s enough to cover the annual bills of more than 4 million American households. Or put over a million students through Harvard for four years. Naturally, this got people wondering, where has that money gone? To find out, I decided to track one fine in particular, that record-breaking Bank of America settlement from 2014. The Bank of America settlement went to three places: The first was the Federal Government. It got about half of the 16.6 billion dollars. Most of that went to fund general government operations, just like taxes. The second place the money went was to states. About $1 billion was divided between California, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, New York and Maryland, which were all involved in the settlement. And each of those states got to decide how they spent their money. California and Illinois, for example, they gave their money to state pension funds that had invested in these mortgage-backed securities. And the third place the money went was to consumers, about $7 billion worth. So, I went to see a guy named Eric Green. Green oversaw part of the $16.6 billion settlement between the Justice Department and Bank of America. It was designed to not only punish Bank of America, but to provide assistance to people, individuals who were injured. The settlement gave Bank of America a menu of different options, different ways that it could pay that consumer relief portion. But that wasn’t all cash. Well, the largest chunk of that money by far went to modify people’s mortgages. Nearly 90,000 mortgages were modified or extinguished. Other options for the bank? It could do things like subsidize affordable housing or donate actual physical homes. They donated 1,455, either mortgages or actual properties. So 90,000 mortgage modifications, 5,000 affordable housing units, a couple thousand donated properties. What does it all add up to? Maybe 150,000 people total would be benefit in some way. Which sounds both like a lot and not that much at the same time. I agree. As big as this program was, and this was the largest program of its kind, but it was too late for too many people. The agreement also included some incentives. If the bank funded certain programs or got the money out quickly, it could reduce its overall bill. That means the headline 7 billion number is a little misleading. Do you have a sense on what that actually means in dollar values for the bank? So, the bank delivered 7 billion of the consumer relief, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was less than $5 billion in actual cost. About 150,000 people got assistance. And did it punish Bank of America? As we know today, the financial sector and the large banks are back doing extremely well. Their profits in a year exceed the costs of this consumer relief. So to review, where does the money go from big bank fines go? Well, in this case, most went to the federal government, some went to state governments and some of went to help finance low-income housing, like this building in the Bronx. Bank of America contributed about $4 million to this project. That got it about $15 million of settlement credit. That’s one of the reason I applied. I applied to this one, to the other one, to all of them. So while it might be too late for those who lost their homes in the financial crisis, it just might help some Americans in places like New York City who are weathering a different type of economic crisis… affordable housing.

Comments (5)

  1. More videos like this please!

  2. 1:15 whoa whoa whoa that doesnt explain anything!!!!

  3. "too late for many people" is right

  4. It's a great business. Spend money in crazy and risky schemes, screw over millions of people, get punished by having to pay a fine that is less than their annual profits and a few years later continue (resume) doing the same again.


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