Published by Reuters.
By David Henry
COLUMBUS, Ohio | Tue May 17, 2011 5:50pm EDT
(Reuters) – JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Jamie Dimon faced harsh questions about mortgage foreclosures at the bank’s annual meeting, and he promised the company would fix what it could.
Community organizers from Brooklyn to Cincinnati to San Francisco complained about Chase losing paperwork, being unresponsive to borrowers in financial trouble and boarding up foreclosed houses.
A woman said she was in danger of losing her house after being laid off from 30 years of work for the state of Illinois. Dimon directed a bank officer to take up her case. He referred other people to the officer too.
“We are doing everything we can to keep people in their homes that should stay in their homes,” Dimon said, reiterating past comments. The bank has “added a lot of people” and systems to work on mortgage modifications, he said.
JPMorgan was one of more than a dozen banks that in April agreed to fix their foreclosure practices as part of a settlement with U.S. bank regulators.
The bank said last month it was taking a $1.1 billion charge, in part because it expected to hire 2,000 to 3,000 people to comply with the settlement.
U.S. banks have foreclosed on millions of homes since the start of the mortgage crisis, and many have been overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork involved.
Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said on Tuesday that the company is trying to help people at risk of losing their homes.
“We understand what you are talking about,” Dimon said after hearing Roger Davis, president of Communities United for Action in Cincinnati, describe growing blight in neighborhoods from boarded-up houses and delays in modifying mortgages to make them more affordable.
“Can you help us?” asked Davis.
“Maybe,” said Dimon.
Davis later said that he was glad Dimon said anything at all, but added, “I don’t have a lot of confidence any more.”
During Tuesday’s annual meeting, Dimon said nothing at all much of the time as shareholders challenged the bank’s policies on a range of issues including political contributions, corporate governance and doing business with international companies accused of genocide.
Dimon offered hopeful comments early in the meeting, noting that the economy could be at the “beginning of a self-sustaining recovery.”
Shareholders gathered in an auditorium in Columbus at one of the bank’s largest account service centers. JPMorgan, the second-biggest U.S. bank, rotates its annual meetings among its major facilities across the nation.
Dimon said that in some cases the bank wrongly foreclosed on homes of members of the military. “We deeply apologize,” he said. The bank has forgiven those mortgages and given the houses to borrowers, general counsel Stephen Cutler said.
JPMorgan’s profits last year were as much as $7 billion short of the bank’s normal earnings power, largely because of the falling housing market and the costs of cleaning up bad mortgage loans and related lawsuits, Dimon said in his annual letter to shareholders on April 4.
JPMorgan made a record $17 billion in 2010.
House prices will “continue to go down modestly because of the continuous high levels of homes for sale,” Dimon said in the letter.
The housing market will recover after employment and the economy recover, he said.