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WSJ: Banks Face $17 Billion in Suits Over Foreclosures

By DAN FITZPATRICK, NICK TIMIRAOS and RUTH SIMON

State attorneys general told five of the nation's largest banks on Tuesday they face a potential liability of at least $17 billion in civil lawsuits if a settlement isn't reached to address improper foreclosure practices, according to people familiar with the matter.

The figure doesn't cover additional billions of dollars in potential claims from federal agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Justice Department. State and federal officials haven't proposed a specific comprehensive settlement figure, but Tuesday's discussions represented the first effort to formally quantify potential liability.

Representatives of the nation's largest banks met in individual meetings on Tuesday with state and federal officials designed to highlight the potential costs they will face if a settlement isn't reached.

Banks and federal officials have made halting progress over two months to settle allegations of abuses related to mortgage servicing, and the numbers floated Tuesday indicate that the two sides are still far apart on the size of the penalty.

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