Supreme Court gives homeowners another chance in escrow dispute with Bank of America


WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday gave homeowners another chance to force Bank of America and other large banks to pay interest on mortgage escrow accounts.

The court unanimously threw out an appeals court ruling in favor of Bank of America, which has refused to pay interest on money it collects to pay borrowers’ insurance and property tax bills. New York requires banks to pay at 2% interest on escrowed funds.

Thirteen other states have similar laws: California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin.

A federal judge initially ruled in favor of the borrowers, but the federal appeals court in New York granted Bank of America’s request to dismiss the suits, arguing that the federal law governing national banks does not permit such state-by-state regulation.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote for the Supreme Court that the appeals court did not perform the kind of nuanced analysis required by federal law and prior Supreme Court decisions to determine if a state law must give way to a federal statute.

In particular, Kavanaugh noted that the Dodd-Frank Act, enacted after the 2008 financial crisis, made clear that not all state banking laws are pre-empted.

Jonathan Taylor, who argued the case for the homeowners, said in an email that the decision is a victory for consumers because it “vindicates Congress’ determination in Dodd-Frank to rein in the kind of aggressive preemption of state consumer-financial laws that helped lead to the financial crisis.”

Bank of America did not immediately comment on the decision.



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