UC Irvine law students will travel California this summer to help determine if five giant banks are fulfilling the pledges they made in a $25-billion settlement of foreclosure-abuse investigations.
The students -- three this summer, and later expanding to eight or nine -- will meet with housing counselors, legal-aid groups and homeowners. They will work for a consumer-protection clinic set up by Katherine Porter, the UC Irvine law professor tapped by California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris to oversee the settlement with Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Ally Financial Inc.
From Harris’ viewpoint, their chief mission will be to collect information and complaints on whether banks are doing what they promised for distressed California homeowners, a spokesman said Tuesday.
That includes forgiving at least $12 billion in mortgage debt by writing down principal and authorizing short sales, refinancing underwater borrowers, providing financial assistance to borrowers who lose their jobs, and paying restitution to victims of foreclosure abuses.
“The plan is to use them as information hunters and gatherers,” Harris spokesman Shum Preston said.
Porter said they’ll also be tasked with explaining details of the 300-page settlement to counseling and legal-aid groups, including its many California-specific requirements, so they’ll know what is expected of the banks and what is a legitimate complaint.
“One of the values of a public higher-education system is to provide expertise,” she said. “The first question the students ask is, ‘Do I have to read the whole settlement?’
“I tell them: ‘Of course!’”
The students will visit at least 12 counties and make at least 24 presentations, Porter said. Findings collected by the students will be incorporated in her first report on the settlement’s progress, which she said would be delivered about Labor Day.