`Hero’ Judge Urged by Couple to Nix $45 Million Bank of America Penalty. (Bloomberg) — A California couple who were dragged through a Bank of America Corp. foreclosure called “brazen” and “heartless” by a bankruptcy judge have joined the lender’s request to be spared from a $45 million punishment.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein in Sacramento, hailed as a “hero judge” by Money magazine for coming down so hard on the bank, must now decide whether to approve a settlement that would rescind both the penalty and the scathing 107-page decision that accompanied it in March.
While Klein said the size of the punitive damages award against Bank of America was meant to “not be laughed off in the boardroom,” the couple who endured what the judge described as a “Kafkaesque nightmare” say the deal they’ve struck will leave them better off and avoid years more litigation and appeals.
The terms of the settlement are confidential, which is a concern for a group of nonprofit consumer advocacy groups and five University of California law schools that were slated to receive $40 million in the award the judge issued in March. The couple, Erik and Renee Sundquist, stood to collect $5 million in punitive damages, plus about $1 million for their losses, including for emotional distress and their costs of suing Bank of America.
The nonprofits aren’t opposing the settlement outright, but they’ve recommended that its terms be made public, in part to see if it includes any acknowledgment of wrongdoing by the bank and a commitment to avoid similar misconduct. The groups also urged the judge not to vacate his March 23 opinion that faulted Bank of America for “institutional obstinance and dishonesty” and said its actions smacked of “cynical disregard for the law.”
“In the calculus of reprehensibility, Bank of America’s intentional conduct adds up to reckless and callous disregard for the rights of others,” Klein wrote.
The bank asked the judge to respect that it reached a private resolution with the Sundquists and to keep the settlement’s terms secret.
“Disclosure of the settlement is unnecessary to establish that it would benefit the parties, conserve judicial resources” and encourage compromise, the company said in a filing Friday.
At a hearing Tuesday, lawyers for the bank and the couple got permission from the judge to return to court Oct. 4 after they discuss further whether to revise the settlement.
BofA Hit With $45 Million Award Over ‘Reckless’ Foreclosure
The Sundquists said in their Aug. 15 request to have the judgment thrown out and their lawsuit dismissed that it’s the only viable path for them to a meaningful recovery. The settlement will provide them with more money than the $6 million the judge awarded them, they said.
“It allows us to put an end to this nightmare that has permeated every aspect of our lives and that of our sons’ lives for so long,” Erik Sundquist said in a court filing. “I cannot even begin to articulate how important it is to me as a husband and a father to end this phase of our life and go forward.”
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