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obama punishes top banks for loans

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is blaming the three largest U.S. mortgage lenders for the failures of its foreclosure-prevention program. It says they’ve done little to help people at risk of losing their homes.

The Treasury Department said Thursday that Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have failed to help enough people permanently lower their mortgage payments so they can stay in their homes.

Based on those lenders’ lackluster success for the first three months of 2011, the government has removed financial incentives it had given them. They amounted to up to $1,000 per permanent loan modification.

About one third of the 1.4 million people who applied to have their mortgage modified have had their payments lowered permanently. More than half who applied have fallen out of the program entirely.

Treasury said the three lenders incorrectly determined that many people were ineligible for the program

Another firm, Ocwen Loan Servcing, was also cited as needing substantial improvement. But it was not subjected to the same financial penalties as the other three companies.

Six other firms — American Home Mortgage Servicing, CitiMortgage, GMAC Mortgage, Litton Loan Servicing, OneWest Bank and Select Portfolio Servicing — require moderate improvement. But Treasury said they will not lose their cash incentives.

The Treasury Department said that when the program began, most of the lenders did not have the needed staff or resources to help the many homeowners seeking lower mortgage payments.

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