SunTrust says cooperating with U.S. foreclosure probe

Reuters

(Adds background on settlements, comment from SunTrust spokesman, byline)

By Jonathan Stempel

Aug 6 (Reuters) - SunTrust Banks Inc said on Wednesday it is cooperating with the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York on a broader industry investigation into expenses charged by law firms in connection with foreclosures.

In a regulatory filing, the Atlanta-based regional bank said the expenses relate to foreclosures of loans guaranteed or insured by government-controlled mortgage companies Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, or by the Federal Housing Administration.

SunTrust said the investigation relates to a private whistleblower lawsuit that was filed under seal and remains in early stages. It said it has had a "dialogue" with Bharara's office to resolve the matter, but did not reach an agreement.

Michael McCoy, a SunTrust spokesman, declined to elaborate on the filing. Betsy Feuerstein, a spokeswoman for Bharara, declined to comment.

In June, SunTrust reached a $968 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve claims over other questionable mortgage practices.

The next month, it agreed to pay as much as $320 million to resolve a U.S. criminal probe into its alleged mismanagement of a program to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure during the recession.

Also in July, HSBC Holdings Plc agreed to pay $10 million to settle charges that it submitted inflated bills to the FHA and Fannie Mae to process foreclosures.

Banco Santander SA, MetLife Inc, PHH Corp , PNC Financial Services Group Inc and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc's Citizens Financial unit have also received subpoenas from Bharara over foreclosure fees charged to the FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Andre Grenon)

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