Earlier today, Military.com and other news agencies reported a big win for a Marine who fought a 5-year legal battle with the behemoth mortgage institution, JP Morgan-Chase.
Capt. Jonathan Rowles filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of active-duty servicemembers using the protections of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, otherwise known as the SCRA, to protect his home from an illegal foreclosure.
Chase contends that it was a "mistake" and they are "fixing it" by repaying more than $2 million to about 4,000 military mortgage holders that were overcharged in interest while they were on active duty and by putting 14 families back into their illegally-foreclosed homes.
The self-professed military friendly bank has now created a special team dedicated to handling military lending.
When it comes to foreclosures happening within the military community, there is no excuse for JP Morgan-Chase to not understand the longstanding protections given to military members through laws of the SCRA. The fact is, the SCRA has roots going back to the Civil War.
The history of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA):
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is formerly known as "Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act (SSCRA). Despite the act's official title (SSCRA) dating back 1940, its origins can be traced as far back as the Civil War when Congress passed a total moratorium on civil actions brought against Union soldiers and sailors. In basic terms, this meant that any legal action involving a civil matter was put on hold until after the soldier or sailor returned from the war. Examples of civil matters included breach of contract, bankruptcy, foreclosure or divorce proceedings.
The SSCRA was largely unchanged from its enactment in 1940. On December 19, 2003, President Bush signed into law the new-and-improved Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This law is a complete revision of the SSCRA but clarified the language, incorporated many years of judicial interpretation, and updated the SSCRA to reflect new developments in American life since 1940.
In other words, it was simplified.
The most recent amendment to the SCRA to provide foreclosure protection to servicemembers occurred in section 2203 of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.
Ignoring the protections of the SCRA is not only wrong, it is punishable by law with fines or imprisonment.
Why did it take five years in a courtroom setting for JP Morgan-Chase to finally decide to take the protections of the SCRA seriously?
Because foreclosures are big business. It was all a part of their cost of doing business. Without being held accountable for their actions, it was also worth the risk.
Most servicemembers have better things to do with their time and energy than to fight a 5-year court battle. They would rather remain busy serving their country. Besides, one battlefield is more than enough.
JP Morgan-Chase was probably hoping for that.