Banks have not commented on details of the nationwide settlement talks.

It's not clear when homeowners will start getting financial aid or loan modifications because the programs need to be set up first, Gansler said. But once the mechanism is in place, banks will have an incentive to distribute the money or help homeowners stay in their homes within the first year of what is expected to be a three-year rollout of the settlement.

The next step, he said, was to pursue the second tier of mortgage servicers for their role in improper foreclosure practices.

The inquiry by the attorneys general began in October 2010 amid revelations of widespread "robo-signing" — foreclosure court documents produced en masse with forged signatures, bogus notarizations and little attention paid to whether anything else about them was accurate.

Liberal advocacy groups, including MoveOn.org, have attempted to stop the settlement. MoveOn collected hundreds of thousands of signatures that were forwarded to President Barack Obama in recent weeks in response to news reports that the administration was pressuring state attorneys general to wrap up a deal soon.

Local MoveOn members organized a petition aimed at Gansler and met with him to make a personal pitch.

Shafer, the University of Baltimore law professor who serves as a counsel coordinator for MoveOn Baltimore, said the settlement amount is small compared with the banks' "resources, the amount that they've profited and the amount of harm done to Americans."

"I'm not saying it's nothing, but it's not a lot," he said, adding that the public should have had the opportunity to examine the settlement's details before the attorneys general signed on.

Gansler said the settlement holds the banks accountable for mortgage origination and servicing problems.

The settlement provides for oversight measures, including an outside monitor who would ensure that banks live up to the deal and enforce penalties for banks that fail to distribute the money within three years.

The banks also agreed to a series of "best practices" in the foreclosure servicing process. Banks must provide a single point of contact for homeowners seeking modifications and document facts supporting a foreclosure, among other measures.

hanah.cho@baltsun.com

twitter.com/hanahcho

What's next

While programs are set up to help homeowners and distribute money from the settlement, state officials urge consumers to find a housing counselor who can help find other assistance or monitor the deal's progress.

Contact Maryland HOPE at 877-462-7555 or

For more information on the mortgage servicing settlement, go to http://www.nationalmortgagesettlement.com

  • Text BUSINESS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun Business text alerts