Fifth Third Bancorp on Tuesday agreed to pay nearly $85 million to settle charges it failed to disclose in a timely manner that more than 1,400 mortgages were defective after certifying they qualified for federal insurance.
The case originated in 2011 as a whistleblower complaint filed under the False Claims Act by Fifth Third’s former chief appraiser, George Mann. The U.S. Department of Justice government intervened in the case on Sept. 30.
The settlement covers federal losses on 519 defaulted Fifth Third loans for which the Department of Housing and Urban Development paid insurance claims and indemnifies HUD for all losses it may incur on about 900 defective loans that haven’t yet defaulted.
The mortgages were originated from 2003 through 2013. Third Fifth admitted responsibility for failing to self-report mortgage loans it knew to be defective, and has reformed its business practices and fired the employees responsible for the fraud.
“When banks discover that some of [their] loans are lemons and that their promises of quality were false, as Fifth Third Bank did, they must come forward and report it promptly, so that taxpayers don’t get stuck with the bill,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a news release.
In his whistleblower suit, Mann alleged a broad range of commercial and residential mortgage violations at the bank, including fraudulent appraisal practices.
“Mr. Mann raised concerns about Fifth Third’s compliance issues internally, but no one listened to him,” said Kathryn Schilling, an attorney for Mann. “He is thrilled that the government has recouped significant funds from Fifth Third to restore taxpayer dollars.”
Mann and another whistleblower, John Ferguson, will receive $6.37 million, court papers show.
“We are pleased to have concluded this agreement with the government, covering loans dating to the financial crisis,” Fifth Third said in a statement. “We are excited about the future of our mortgage business.”