Judge Rules Force-Placed Insurance Refunds for 400,000-Plus Borrowers
Judge David Hurd of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York has granted final approval of a nationwide class action settlement in a pair of consolidated federal cases, Casey v. Citigroup, Inc., No. 12-cv-820 (N.D.N.Y.) and Coonan v. Citibank, N.A., No. 13-cv-353 (N.D.N.Y.), involving force-placed insurance. The law firms appointed to represent the plaintiffs and the classes, Berger & Montague, P.C. and Nichols Kaster, PLLP, are pleased that the court approved all aspects of the settlement, which makes force-placed insurance refunds available to over 400,000 borrowers. Specifically, Citibank and the other defendants have made more than $115 million in refunds and escrow credits available to borrowers whose mortgage loans were serviced by Citibank, and who submit a claim form to receive a refund of the force-placed insurance premiums that were charged to them. The lawsuits alleged that Citibank and its force-placed insurance vendors, Assurant, Inc., American Security Insurance Company, and Standard Guaranty Insurance Company, unlawfully profited from force-placing insurance on borrowers' properties, including by arranging for improper kickbacks or so-called "commissions" to be paid to Citibank or its affiliates by the force-placed insurance vendors. The Casey lawsuit also alleged that Citibank increased the amount of force-placed flood insurance required for some borrowers in excess of their unpaid principal balance, in violation of borrowers' loan agreements. To receive compensation under the settlement, mortgage borrowers whose loans have been serviced by Citibank and who were subjected to force-placed insurance must submit a claim form by the end of the claim period, which remains open. Class members who submit timely and valid claims will receive a check or escrow credit equal to (a) 12.5 percent of any hazard insurance premiums they were charged between January 1, 2007 and April 2, 2014; (b) eight percent of any wind insurance premiums they were charged between January 1, 2007 and April 2, 2014; and (c) eight percent of any flood insurance premiums they were charged between May 17, 2006 and April 2, 2014. Claim forms are available on the settlement website and should be sent to CitiMortgage Claims Administrator, PO Box 43262, Providence RI 02940-3262. In addition, the settlement provides for significant injunctive relief by prohibiting the allegedly improper kickbacks from continuing and by limiting the amount of insurance that Citibank can require borrowers to maintain. "This settlement is a victory for the class members," said Kai Richter of Nichols Kaster, PLLP, one of the lead attorneys for the Plaintiffs. "Under the settlement, class members who submit claims will be entitled to recover almost all of the commissions that were paid to Citibank's affiliate on force-placed hazard insurance, and will be entitled to recover a portion of the premiums they paid for flood and wind insurance even though Citibank and its affiliates did not receive commission payments in connection with flood and wind insurance." "This was a hard-fought settlement that vindicates the rights of affected consumers," said Shanon J. Carson of Berger & Montague, P.C., also appointed as co-lead counsel for the Plaintiffs. "It is important that class members understand that the time period in which they can submit a claim to receive a refund of their force-placed insurance premiums remains open, and that they only have to go on the website and fill out and return a one-page claim form to receive their payment."