Nightly News   |  November 19, 2013

Homeowners hit by housing collapse to receive settlement money

The largest bank in America, JP Morgan Chase, has agreed to pay $13 billion to settle government claims over the bank’s conduct that led up to the housing crisis and financial meltdown in 2008. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>>> enough that a lot of bad behavior by big banks contributed to the great recession a few years back, sinking the finances of so many american families. it all started, of course, with the housing crisis and so many americans have been frustrated that it did not end with stiffer penalties for those who caused it. very few have paid any price at all for what went on. that changed in a big way today as j.p. morgan has agreed to pay $13 billion to the federal government . that is the most money any company has ever paid to the feds. we begin there tonight with our justice correspondent, pete williams , at the justice department for us tonight. good evening, pete.

>> reporter: brian, good evening. and just to put this in perspective, what j.p. morgan has agreed to pay is about three times what bp paid after the gulf oil spill. it was a scene repeated nationwide, people who thought they had achieved the american dream ending up with mortgages that had cost far more than their homes were worth. like bridgeett walker, an army veteran injured in iraq, whose disability payments couldn't cover her mortgage.

>> my payments were cut dramatically in half. but i still had the bills and responsibilities of an active duty salary but my salary was nowhere near that.

>> reporter: today, the government imposed the stiffest punishment yet for the wall street manipulations that led to the crisis and the biggest economic downturn. $13 billion to be paid by the world's second biggest bank, j.p. morgan chase . the bank and the companies it bought admitted that the problems contributed to the housing slump and recession.

>> it had had a direct impact on the mortgage industry, which led directly, i believe to the collapse of our economy back in 2008 and 2009 .

>> reporter: during the hot housing market , many took bundles as mortgage securities . when the market collapsed, the packages became mostly worthless. j.p. morgan admitted that it sold those packages to investors even though the executives knew the mortgages were highly suspect. under the settlement, $4 billion will go to help homeowners who were hit hard by the housing collapse. nearly half the money will be used to lower what is still owed by those who paid more than their homes are now worth and to reduce monthly mortgage payments for those having trouble making them. the rest will help low income buyers get new loans and help with the foreclosed homes. but is it punishment enough? some economists say that bank executives should be in handcuffs.

>> you don't get rewards until you hold them accountable. and in this scenario, there is still no culprit. no single person has been identified.

>> reporter: tonight, the government says that criminal charges are still possible. and as for how many will be helped, tens of thousands?

>> pete williams starting us off on a big story tonight,