Those struggling to pay credit card debt are likely facing daily harassment by lenders or credit card companies. Fortunately, bankruptcy is available for these struggling individuals. And, once a bankruptcy petition is filed, there’s an automatic stay. This means that once an individual files for bankruptcy, lenders are barred from harassing debtors any further. And, if a bankruptcy is later completed, lenders are still prohibited from pursuing any action.
But, this isn’t what happened in a 2012 case involving Bank of America—the second-largest U.S. bank holding company.
The bank continued to harass two debtors long after they filed for bankruptcy, and even after their bankruptcy was finalized, and faced severe sanctions by the judge as a result.
Bank of America’s Actions
The debtors, a married couple, filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Among their assets and liabilities was a mortgage on their primary residence owned by Bank of America. The judge granted the discharge of the mortgage loan in the bankruptcy, but gave BOA the option to foreclose on the residence and collect any collateral from the resale.
BOA took no action and, despite the discharge, continued to harass the debtors via phone calls and letters. As a reminder, the couple’s attorney notified the bank of the discharge, yet the harassment still continued.
Bankruptcy Judge Takes Action
Due to continued disregard for the order, the bankruptcy judge issued a ruling last month sanctioning BOA. The judge ordered the company to pay $10,000 plus attorney’s fees for every subsequent month the company continues to harass the debtors for the unpaid mortgage balance.
Even despite the sanction, the company failed to take immediate action. Court records indicate BOA didn’t even respond to the judge’s order until 10 days after it was signed.
The judge realizes that the sanction amount is likely menial considering BOA is the third largest company in the world with assets in the billions, but hopes the ruling will send a message to other attorneys dealing with the bank-or those who may face similar situations in the future.
BOA’s History of Unlawful Conduct
This isn’t the first time BOA has been in hot water over alleged violations of bankruptcy laws. This past March, a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge in the state of Florida sanctioned BOA for $220,000 as a result of the company’s defiance of court orders.
Unfortunately, it’s likely the bank isn’t planning to modify the way it handles mortgages and borrowers anytime soon. The bank signed up for a $25 billion home lending industry consent decree agreeing to change the procedures and actions against debtors, but experts in the field argue that violations continue to remain commonplace despite the decree.
Together with Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, Bank of America remains one of the biggest banks in the U.S.