As home prices have plunged over the past couple of years, an increasing number of homeowners -- even those who can afford their monthly payments -- are considering walking away from their mortgages. The borrowers see the "strategic default" as being in their best financial interest. Critics say homeowners have a moral obligation to continue paying the mortgage, and banks have said they may pursue legal claims against the strategic defaulters. "We will try to reduce people's payments if they have a hardship," said JPMorgan Chase representative Thomas Kelly. "But we have a financial responsibility to get people to pay what they owe if they can afford it."

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