Bank of America Boosts Staff Handling Troubled Loans

David Mildenberg
Bloomberg.com
6/23/2010

Bank of America Corp., the second- largest U.S. home lender, added 2,000 employees since April to work with borrowers having trouble paying their mortgages, a senior executive said.

The lender now has more than 18,000 workers in “default management,” a 60 percent increase since January 2009, Barbara Desoer, president of Bank of America’s home-loan and insurance unit, said in testimony prepared for a congressional hearing on U.S. housing policy tomorrow. Those workers handle 100,000 calls a day, she said. Wells Fargo & Co., the largest U.S. home lender, Bank of America and other companies have hired thousands of employees or shifted staff from other departments to work with borrowers who have lost jobs or experienced declining incomes. Banks repossessed a record 257,944 homes in the first quarter, 35 percent more than a year earlier, according to Irvine, California-based RealtyTrac Inc. More than a fifth of U.S. mortgage holders owed more than their homes were worth, Seattle- based real estate data provider Zillow.com reported last month.

“Given the depth of the nation’s recessionary impacts on homeowners, a considerable number of customers will transition from homeownership over the next two years,” Desoer said in the testimony. “We must compassionately and responsibly help those customers who have exhausted all their options and can no longer afford to stay in their homes.”

Handling More Calls

Bank of America, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, handles almost 14 million home loans, or about one of every five U.S. mortgages, more than any other U.S. servicer, Desoer said. Payments on 1.4 million loans are more than 60 days late, she said. Investors or government-sponsored entities such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae own most of those loans and pay servicers fees to handle billing and collection.

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