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Bank to pay $249m in foreclosure agreement

Vincent Yu/AP/File

WASHINGTON — British bank HSBC will pay $249 million to settle federal complaints that its US division wrongfully foreclosed on homeowners who should have been allowed to stay in their homes.

The agreement with the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is similar to deals with 12 other banks that ended a review of loan files required under a 2011 federal action. Combined, the 13 banks will pay $9.3 billion.

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The settlements could compensate Americans whose homes were seized because of abuses such as ‘‘robo-signing,’’ when banks automatically signed off on foreclosures without properly reviewing documents. The agreement will also help eliminate huge potential liabilities for the banks.

Consumer advocates say regulators settled for too low a price by letting banks avoid full responsibility for foreclosures that victimized families.

Under the settlement, HSBC will pay $96 million in cash compensation to about 112,000 homeowners.

The rest — $153 million — will go toward reducing mortgage balances and forgiving outstanding principal on home sales that generated less than borrowers owed on their mortgages.

The payments to homeowners could range from hundreds of dollars up to $125,000, depending on the type of possible error.

‘‘We are pleased to have reached this agreement . . . and believe it is a positive development that will benefit homeowners,’’ HSBC said in a statement.

The bank said it expects to record a pretax charge of $96 million for the fourth quarter of 2012 related to the cash compensation part of the settlement.

The $153 million in mortgage relief to be paid is expected to be covered by the bank’s current reserves and not to require a charge, the bank said.

The structure of the deal is nearly identical to the others revealed this month with Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, MetLife Bank, PNC Financial Services, Sovereign, SunTrust, U.S. Bank, Aurora, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs.

Ally Financial has been in discussions with regulators on a similar settlement but has yet to reach deals.

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