At 3:32 AM ET on January 7, 2021 with the verification of the 3 electoral votes of Vermont, a joint session of Congress confirmed 271 electoral votes for Joseph R. Biden and Kamala Harris to be the next President and Vice President of the United States At 3:41, Vice President Mike Pence confirmed the vote …
Tag: Kamala Harris
Jan 07 2021
Aug 11 2020
Biden’s V.P. Pick is Sen. Harris
Presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced his choice to be his vice presidential running mate, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA). Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican-born father and Indian-born mother, served as a district attorney in San Francisco before becoming attorney general of California, the first woman to hold the post in the most populous …
Feb 15 2012
The Mortgage Settlement: They All Lied
Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette
Yes, they all lied, the the government and the state attorneys general, Schneiderman, too. The 49 state mortgage settlement that is not written but was reached is not the narrow settlement that these actors would have you believe. In the Mortgage Settlement Executive Summary Section VII states:
The proposed Release contains a broad release of the banks’ conduct related to mortgage loan servicing, foreclosure preparation, and mortgage loan origination services. Claims based on these areas of past conduct by the banks cannot be brought by state attorneys general or banking regulators.
The Release applies only to the named bank parties. It does not extend to third parties who may have provided default or foreclosure services for the banks. Notably, claims against MERSCORP, Inc. or Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) are not released.
What does that mean? According to Yves Smith at naked capitalism it translates to a complete get out of jail free card
This is sufficiently general so that it is hard to be certain, but It certainly reads as if it waives chain of title issues and liability related to the use of MERS. That seems to be confirmed by the fact that made by local recorders for fees are explicitly preserved (one would not think they would need to be preserved unless they might otherwise be assumed to be waived). This is exactly the sort of release we feared would be given in a worst case scenario. The banks have gotten a huge “get out of jail free” card of bupkis.
Yves also quotes Frederick Leatherman who for a recap:
In one of his articles yesterday at Firedoglake, David Dayen mentioned that the settlement agreement has not been reduced to writing.
That is astonishing.
Let me repeat. That. Is. Astonishing.
The biggest problem with settlement agreements in particular, and all agreements in general, is reaching a so-called ‘meeting of the minds’ regarding the details and ‘chiseling them into stone’ by reducing them to writing. As I used to warn my clients when I was practicing law, we do not have an agreement until it has been reduced to writing, thoroughly reviewed, and signed by each of the parties. That has obviously not happened in this case.
Experience has taught us that humans dealing in good faith make mistakes, no matter how careful they are, and the potential for mistakes, misunderstandings and subsequent disagreements about the terms of an agreement cannot be overestimated. That potential becomes a certainty when one or more parties to an agreement is dealing in bad faith.
That, my friends, is why we have a law called the Statute of Frauds, which requires that certain types of agreements be in writing or they are invalid and unenforceable.
Yves take on Schneiderman and Biden’s involvement:
While the full terms have not been agreed upon, this seems to call into question the claim that Schneiderman got a carve-out for his MERS suit (and Biden had separately insisted that he had wanted to be able to add banks to his case against MERS).
But even with all these caveats, it’s hard to read the executive summary, which no doubt was vetted by the bank, Administration and AG sides, as meaning other than what it intends to mean: that the banks have been released of the meteor-wiping-out-the-dinosaurs-and-the-MBS-market liability they were most afraid of, that of the monstrous mess they made in their failure to convey notes as stipulated in their own contracts, and with their failure to use MERS as a mere registry, rather than a substitute for local recording offices. That in turns means that various cheerleaders for this deal, such as Mike “Settlement Release Looks Tight” Lux and Bob Kuttner have badly misled readers in their assertions that the release was narrow and the deal is good for homeowners.
The Obama administration and its advocates would have us believe that this agreement is going to help underwater homeowners and those who have been victims of foreclosure fraud. I’m not going to be delicate about this, it’s a bold faced lie. To make matters even worse Pimco’s analysis points out how this will damage pensions:
The government’s deal with banks over their foreclosure practices after 16 months of investigations is cheap for the loan servicers while costly for bond investors including pension funds, according to Pacific Investment Management Co.’s Scott Simon.
In what the U.S. called the largest federal-state civil settlement in the nation’s history, five banks including Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. yesterday committed $20 billion in various forms of mortgage relief plus payments of $5 billion to state and federal governments.
“This was a relatively cheap resolution for the banks,” said Simon, the mortgage head at Pimco, which runs the world’s largest bond fund. “A lot of the principal reductions would have happened on their loans anyway, and they’re using other people’s money to pay for a ton of this. Pension funds, 401(k)s and mutual funds are going to pick up a lot of the load.”
If anyone expects that that new panel with New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is going to ease the housing crisis and hold the banks accountable, I have some really cheap bridges for sale in California and New York.
Feb 13 2012
The Mortgage Settlement: Not Settled Yet
Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette
So one has yet seen the final agreement between the banks and the state attorneys general and it may be awhile before we do. And as Yves Smith at naked capitalism stated “You know it’s bad when banks are the most truthful guys in the room“:
Remember that historical mortgage settlement deal that was the lead news story on Thursday? It has been widely depicted as a done deal. The various AGs who had been holdouts said their concerns had been satisfied.
But in fact, Bank of America’s press release said that the deal was “agreements in principle” as opposed to a final agreement. The Charlotte bank had to be more precise than politicians because it is subject to SEC regulations about the accuracy of its disclosures. And if you read the template for the AG press release carefully, you can see how it finesses where the pact stands. And today, American Banker confirmed that the settlement pact is far from done, and the details will be kept from the public as long as possible, until it is filed in Federal court (because it includes injunctive relief, a judge must bless the agreement).
This may not sound all that important to laypeople, but most negotiators and attorneys will react viscerally to how negligent the behavior of the AGs has been. The most common reaction among lawyers I know who been with white shoe firms (including former partners) is “shocking”.
In fact as the American Banker points out the document does not exist:
More than a day after the announcement of a mammoth national mortgage servicing settlement, the actual terms of the deal still aren’t public. The website created for the national settlement lists the document as “coming soon.”
That’s because a fully authorized, legally binding deal has not been inked yet.
The implication of this is hard to say. Spokespersons for both the Iowa attorney general’s office and the Department of Justice both told American Banker that the actual settlement will not be made public until it is submitted to a court. A representative for the North Carolina attorney general downplayed the significance of the document’s non-final status, saying that the terms were already fixed. [..]
Other sources who spoke with American Banker raised doubts that everything is yet in place. A person familiar with the mortgage servicing pact says that a settlement term sheet does not yet exist. Instead, there are a series of nearly-complete documents that will be attached to a consent judgment eventually filed with the court. That truly final version will include things such as servicing standards, consumer relief options, legal releases, and enforcement terms. There will likely be separate state and a federal versions of the release.
Some who talked to American Banker said that the political pressure to announce the settlement drove the timing, in effect putting the press release cart in front of the settlement horse.
Whatever the reason for the document’s continued non-appearance, the lack of a public final settlement is already the cause for disgruntlement among those who closely follow the banking industry. Quite simply, the actual terms of a settlement matter. [..]
“The devil’s in the details,” says Ron Glancz, chairman of law firm Venable LLP’s Financial Services Group. “Until you see the document you’re never quite sure what your rights are.”
“It’s frustrating,” agrees Stern Agee analyst John Nadel. “But it’s not unlike anything else that’s been going on in financial reform generally, is it?” [..]
“It is hard for me to believe that they would have gone public in the way that they did if they didn’t have it all worked out. But it is unusual that we don’t have a copy of the settlement yet,” says Diane Thompson, an attorney for the National Consumer Law Center.
A spokesperson from the South Carolina AG’s office told American Banker that when the agreement is finalized it would be posted to this website “nationalmortgagesettlement.com,” which raised some eyebrows. David Dayen at FDL News Desk questioned why .com and not .org? Dayen also pointed out that by not having all the details ironed out is “just a shocking abdication of responsibility”:
This is incredible. The Administration, the AGs, everyone involved in this made a big show of an agreement reached on foreclosure fraud. But there is no piece of paper with the agreement on it. There’s no term sheet. There are just agreements in principle.
There’s a HUGE difference between an agreement in principle and the actual terms. I mean night and day. The Dodd-Frank bill was for all intents and purposes an agreement in principle. It left to the federal regulators to write hundreds of rules. And we have seen how that process of implementation has faltered on several key points. But the Administration wanted to announce a “big deal,” the details be damned. And they got buy-in from the AGs. Everyone else stayed silent.
Yves Smith appeared with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now to discuss just how bad this deal is.
The U.S. Justice Department has unveiled a record mortgage settlement with the nation’s five largest banks to resolve claims over faulty foreclosures and mortgage practices that have indebted and displaced homeowners and sunk the nation’s economy. While the deal is being described as a $25 billion settlement, the banks will only have to pay out a total of $5 billion in cash between them. We speak to one of the settlement’s most prominent critics, Yves Smith, a longtime financial analyst who runs the popular finance website, “Naked Capitalism.” “The settlement, on the surface, does look like it is helping homeowners,” Smith says. “But in fact, the bigger part that most people don’t recognize is the way it actually helps the banks with mortgages on their own books. … The real problem is that this deal is just not going to give that much relief.”
Yes, this could be a lot worse and won’t address the needs of the underwater homeowners or those who lost their homes through fraud.
Feb 12 2012
The Settlement & Other Propaganda
Cross Posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette
This is a state by state breakdown of the foreclosure settlement (h/t Yves Smith):
An astute observation from Lambert Strether:
OMFG, look at the weasel wording in the press release:
“This agreement is very significant in how it addresses the fraud that these banks committed against many homeowners across our state,” said ___.” This agreement not only provides much needed relief to (STATE) [Ha ha, fill in the blank!!!] borrowers, but it also puts a stop to many of the bad [criminal] behaviors that contributed to the mortgage mess in our state and across the country.”
And then there’s “fraud that these banks committed.” So if it’s fraud (against whom?!) then why is nobody going to jail?
UPDATE Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot. Banksters never go to jail. A banana republic like ours has a two-tier system of justice, and banksters have impunity for all crimes. Unlike you, peasants. My bad, seriously.
And is definitely a top comment:
Google tells it like it is. I google the first phrase as a complete string, a la “This agreement is very significant in how it addresses the fraud“, and the first thing that comes up is indeed Tom Miller’s press release, from 9 minutes ago (10:44AM EST), and two or three down after that, links to Nigerian 419 scams, triggered by the similarities between the Miller’s wording, and the scripts of scam artists. Shocker!
(all emphasis mine)
Some of the propaganda (again h/t Yves Smith):
Settlement Graphic and Settlement Graphic
Click the links but first put all heavy and sharp objects out of reach.
Feb 09 2012
The Mortgage Settlement: Leaves Out Millions of Homeowners, Banks Walk Away Happy
Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette
The biggest banks involved in mortgage fraud have agreed to a $26 billion settlement along with 49 states attorneys general. Oklahoma is the only hold out because the state’s Attorney General, Scott Pruitt, did not believe that the banks should face any penalty. The agreement will “help borrowers owing more than their houses are worth, with roughly one million expected to have their mortgage debt reduced by lenders or able to refinance their homes at lower rates. Another 750,000 people who lost their homes to foreclosure from September 2008 to the end of 2011 will receive checks for about $2,000. The aid is to be distributed over three years.”
Yves Smith at naked capitalism notes that while the final terms of the agreement have not been released but some of the details have been leaked:
1. The total for the top five servicers is now touted as $26 billion (annoyingly, the FT is calling it “nearly $40 billion”), but of that, roughly $17 billion is credits for principal modifications, which as we pointed out earlier, can and almost assuredly will come largely from mortgages owned by investors. $3 billion is for refis, and only $5 billion will be in the form of hard cash payments, including $1500 to $2000 per borrower foreclosed on between September 2008 and December 2011.
Banks will be required to modify second liens that sit behind firsts “at least” pari passu, which in practice will mean at most pari passu. So this guarantees banks will also focus on borrowers where they do not have second lien exposure, and this also makes the settlement less helpful to struggling homeowners, since borrowers with both second and first liens default at much higher rates than those without second mortgages. Per the Journal:
“It’s not new money. It’s all soft dollars to the banks,” said Paul Miller, a bank analyst at FBR Capital Markets.
The Times is also subdued:
Despite the billions earmarked in the accord, the aid will help a relatively small portion of the millions of borrowers who are delinquent and facing foreclosure. The success could depend in part on how effectively the program is carried out because earlier efforts by Washington aimed at troubled borrowers helped far fewer than had been expected.
2. Schneiderman’s MERS suit survives, and he can add more banks as defendants. It isn’t clear what became of the Biden and Coakley MERS suits, but Biden sounded pretty adamant in past media presentations on preserving that.
3. Nevada’s and Arizona’s suits against Countrywide for violating its past consent decree on mortgage servicing has, in a new Orwellianism, been “folded into” the settlement.
4. The five big players in the settlement have already set aside reserves sufficient for this deal.
Yves goes on to enumerate the top 12 reasons why this settlement really stinks. These are her top 5:
1. We’ve now set a price for forgeries and fabricating documents. It’s $2000 per loan. This is a rounding error compared to the chain of title problem these systematic practices were designed to circumvent. The cost is also trivial in comparison to the average loan, which is roughly $180k, so the settlement represents about 1% of loan balances. It is less than the price of the title insurance that banks failed to get when they transferred the loans to the trust. It is a fraction of the cost of the legal expenses when foreclosures are challenged. It’s a great deal for the banks because no one is at any of the servicers going to jail for forgery and the banks have set the upper bound of the cost of riding roughshod over 300 years of real estate law.
2. That $26 billion is actually $5 billion of bank money and the rest is your money. The mortgage principal writedowns are guaranteed to come almost entirely from securitized loans, which means from investors, which in turn means taxpayers via Fannie and Freddie, pension funds, insurers, and 401 (k)s. Refis of performing loans also reduce income to those very same investors.
3. That $5 billion divided among the big banks wouldn’t even represent a significant quarterly hit. Freddie and Fannie putbacks to the major banks have been running at that level each quarter.
4. That $20 billion actually makes bank second liens sounder, so this deal is a stealth bailout that strengthens bank balance sheets at the expense of the broader public.
5. The enforcement is a joke. The first layer of supervision is the banks reporting on themselves. The framework is similar to that of the OCC consent decrees implemented last year, which Adam Levitin and yours truly, among others, decried as regulatory theater.
She goes on to explain how there are no constraints on servicers cheating to reduce their losses and will face no consequences when caught as in the past. With the law suits against Countrywide somehow “folded into the deal”, Bank of America, who is by far the worst offender in the chain of title disaster, gets a “special gift”: “that failing to comply with a consent degree has no consequences but will merely be rolled into a new consent degree which will also fail to be enforced”. As David Dayen at FDL News Desk explains:
As far as the release goes, AG offices that signed onto the lawsuit claimed it was narrowly crafted to only affected foreclosure fraud, robo-signing and servicing (which I don’t feel is all that narrow, but I’m trying to just-the-facts this – ed). The lawsuit that New York AG Eric Schneiderman filed last Friday, suing MERS and three banks for their use of MERS, was preserved fully. There was a last-minute request by the banks to dissolve that lawsuit, but it was not successful. In addition, Schneiderman reserves the right to sue other servicers for their use of MERS along the same lines as the current lawsuit. [..]
Other lawsuits, like Delaware AG Beau Biden’s lawsuit against MERS, Missouri AG Chris Koster’s criminal indictments against DocX, and Nevada AG Catherine Cortez Masto’s suit against LPS and its employees would be able to go forward as well because the banks are not a party to them. However, it’s unclear whether any of those AGs will be able to work their way up the chain to indict bank officers for the same conduct; the likely answer, I assume, would be no. In California, Kamala Harris preserved the right for state officials and large pension funds to sue under the state’s False Claims Act over mortgage backed securities that later fell in value.
The status of Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley’s suit against five banks for foreclosure fraud is unknown. In all likelihood, the Nevada/Arizona suit against Bank of America for failing to follow their responsibilities in the Countrywide settlement will be folded into the deal.
In that settlement, BofA promised to deliver $8.5 billion in relief for Countrywide borrowers who fell victim to deceptive practices in the mortgage process. In reality, only $236 million was ever spent. Weak settlement terms allowed BofA to take credit merely for offering loan modifications to borrowers. And the Nevada suit alleged that BofA immediately started abusing borrowers who tried to get relief under the deal. But that suit is now gone.
As to the role of new Federal task force, if it were to be taken seriously this settlement should have not been completes until the task force’s investigation was finished. A good investigation takes charges that are easy to prove to help get the more evidence for the more difficult ones. By letting the banks walk. As Yves sees it, and she is correct, the investigations in Nevada and Missouri led to criminal charges and arrests that might have led to deals to catch the criminals “higher up the food chain.” There is plenty of evidence of bankruptcy-related filings, such as inflated and bogus fees, and even substantial, completely made up charges that has been ignored that could have led to a bigger settlement and prosecutions. By cutting a deal on robosigning the deeper chain of title problem has now been covered up making it even more difficult to address the on going fraud at high levels, the banks themselves.
So the bottom line is the banks have three years to hand out $5 billion in cash to about one million homeowners that will amount to about $2000 each for the loss of their homes through fraud. They will suffer no other consequences and there will be no further means to prosecute them, even if there is clear evidence of complicity in fraud related to robosigning. There is still the issue of 10 million underwater homeowners with $700 billion in negative equity that will continue to drag on the housing market and the economy for years to come. It would seem the Obama administration has once again screwed the vast majority of Americans to protect the Banks and Wall St. and his supporters are cheering this as another reason to reelect him. I see no reason for the Republicans to worry about another four years of Obama.
Up Date: If you’re one of the victims of the banking ghouls, you might not want to visit the new website for “The National Mortgage Settlement” The picture alone might make you want to do something you’d regret. The site details the agreement. David Dayen gives a brief synopsis of some of the gorier detail:
$750 million in a payment to the federal government;
$4.5 billion in direct payments to the states, of which $1.5 billion will go to those $2,000 checks to borrowers, and $2.75 billion to state foreclosure prevention services like legal aid, mandatory mediation and other programs. So the hard money comes to $5.25 billion.
$20 billion in “direct consumer relief”;
$3 billion to help current underwater borrowers refinance, and $17 billion in “credits” for principal reductions. HUD estimates that the dollar value of this will come to $32.3 billion in the end, as we’ve discussed. HUD Secretary Donovan has alternately said that a “substantial” amount of this money will come from MBS investor loans, and also that the large majority would come out of bank-owned loans. Also second liens have to be reduced along with firsts at least pari passu (on equal terms).
In addition, officials are touting the nationwide servicing standards that will be ushered in with this deal. Left out of this is the fact that the CFPB now has control over the servicing market, and can regulate national standards all by themselves.
The site mentions what the settlement doesn’t cover:
Release any criminal liability or grant any criminal immunity.
Release any private claims by individuals or any class action claims.
Release claims related to the securitization of mortgage backed securities that were at the heart of the financial crisis.
Release claims against Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems or MERSCORP.
Release any claims by a state that chooses not to sign the settlement.
End state attorneys general investigations of Wall Street related to financial fraud or the financial crisis.
We still don’t have any specific answers to the letter that Nevada AG Masto sent to the settlement negotiators. What Davyen finds really annoying is that the specific details haven’t been released to the public who really deserves to know how badly they are being screwed.
I may have a separate article later as more specifics trickle down
Dec 24 2011
Investigating Fannie & Freddie But Not The Banks
Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette
Another slap on the wrist by the government for the banks that caused the housing bubble and the crash that sank the economy world wide with unregulated derivatives and credit default swaps:
by David Dayen
The Department of Justice has announced a $335 million settlement with Countrywide, the former subprime mortgage giant now subsumed into Bank of America, on claims of housing discrimination.
The Justice Department on Wednesday announced the largest residential fair-lending settlement in history, saying that Bank of America had agreed to pay $335 million to settle allegations that its Countrywide Financial unit discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers during the housing boom.
A department investigation concluded that Countrywide had charged higher fees and rates to more than 200,000 minority borrowers across the country than to white borrowers who posed the same credit risk. It also steered more than 10,000 minority borrowers into costly subprime mortgages when white borrowers with similar credit profiles received prime loans, the department said.
The pattern and practice covered the years 2004 to 2008, before Countrywide was acquired by Bank of America.
“The department’s actions against Countrywide makes clear that we will not hesitate to hold financial institutions accountable, including one of the nation’s largest, for discrimination,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said. “These institutions should make judgments based on applicants’ creditworthiness, not on the color of their skin.”
I’m waiting for someone to hold financial institutions accountable for discrimination against every one of its customers, by defrauding them and destroying the residential home mortgage market. That’s obviously not going to happen here.[..]
Here’s the settlement agreement, and once again you see that Countrywide doesn’t have to admit wrongdoing for their crimes.
But the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission will enthusiastically pursue the one agency that didn’t cause the crash but just inherited it, at tax payers expense:
by David Dayen
The walls have closed in over the past couple weeks on mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The SEC charged former CEOs and executives at the companies with fraud. California Attorney General Kamala Harris sued them for imformation (sic)in a wide-ranging fraud investigation. And now we learn that the FBI is investigating them[..]
If Fannie and Freddie are guilty of misleading investors, they deserve to pay the penalty. And yet, I do sense more enthusiasm to go after these government sponsored enterprises than to go after the private banking firms which were far more responsible for subprime. This feeds a false narrative that government somehow caused the financial crisis by forcing lending to poor people. Fannie and Freddie followed the market in subprime and did not originate it.
Dec 10 2011
Fighting Foreclosure Fraud State by State
Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette
The two of the lady state attorney generals took the stage on the talk shows discussing their actions to protect their constituents from the thousands of illegal foreclosures that are crushing their states economies. Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley joined Dylan Ratigan for a lively chat about her lawsuit against five major banks and MERS. Later, AG Kamala Harris explained to Lawrence O’Donnell on “The Last Word” her reasons for breaking from the not-50 State Agreement being brokered by the Obama administration.
The ladies are really on a roll. Just this week it was announced that Ms. Harris has teamed up with Nevada’s State Attorney General, Catherine Cortez Masto, to look into a wide array of abuses, including mishandled documents, shoddy loan servicing, and the questionable ways in which mortgages were bundled and sold to investors. Like New York’s AG Eric Schneiderman and AG Beau Biden of Delaware, the ladies see strength in numbers.
This is the hard work protecting consumers that the Obama administration refuses to do.
Nov 29 2011
AG Harris Still Standing Up For CA Homeowners
Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette
While Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and his merry band of AG sell outs push for an agreement to settle the mortgage fraud, it looks like California Attorney General, Kamala Harris, is sticking to her plan to hold the worst of the abusers feet to the fire.
The Miller agreement, which is also being backed by US Attorney General Eric Holder, could result in an even smaller settlement than the $25 million and would still leave the banks open to legal claims in the states that do not sign on to the agreement. While California is the state with the largest number of foreclosures, not signing onto the agreement would mean that homeowners would have to wait longer for relief but, as AG Harris has stated, it “would allow too few California homeowners to stay in their homes…. After much consideration, I have concluded that this is not the deal California homeowners have been looking for.”
Ms. Harris has been under considerable pressure from the Obama administration, who has considered her a replacement for Eric Holder should Obama be reelected. However. many community organizations, unions and liberal groups have urged to her not to sign on to the Miller agreement unless there is a larger monetary settlement or, that failing, the states are allowed to prosecute the banks for crimes they may have committed. Neither of those two stipulations appears to have happened, nor are they likely.
Along with New York’s Eric Schneiderman, Delaware’s Beau Biden, Nevada’s Catherine Cortez Masto and a couple of other state attorney generals, Ms. Harris’s position is good policy for the state, as well as, good politics for her. She has stood by the people who put her in office, the people she will need to support her should she run for governor or the US Senate. We could use a few like her in that body.
Oct 07 2011
Another Attorney General Exits Multi-State Mortgage Fraud Talks
Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette
Last Friday California Attorney General, Kamala Harris, notified Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and U.S. Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli that she would no longer be participating in the multi-state talks to settle the mortgage and foreclosure fraud by the nation’s largest banks.
“Last week, I went to Washington, D.C., in hopes of moving our discussions forward,” Harris wrote. “But it became clear to me that California was being asked for a broader release of claims than we can accept and to excuse conduct that has not been adequately investigated.”
“[T]his not the deal California homeowners have been waiting for,” Harris adds one line later.
AG Harris joins the list of state attorney generals who have balked at letting the banks pay a mere $20 billion to settle their liability in the housing crisis they created without any real criminal investigations. In her letter (pdf), she states her plans:
I intend to continue to investigate the mortgage practices that I believe have contributed to the growing housing crisis in my state. Months ago, I began California’s independent work in this respect by establishing a Mortgage Fraud Strike Force, and I have given the Strike Force attorneys a broad mandate to investigate all stages of the mortgage lending process, from origination to servicing and foreclosures to securitization of loans into investments in the secondary market. I am committed to doing as thorough an investigation as is needed – and to taking the time that is necessary – to set the stage for achieving appropriate accountability for misconduct.
I will also push for additional legislation and regulations that enhance transparency and eliminate incentives to disregard borrower’s rights in foreclosure. Many of these reforms have been identified in the multistate talks, and I hope that in good faith the banks will adopt these reforms immediately.
While David Dayen doesn’t think that the legislation have a chance. he does say that public pressure has had a huge impact in pushing Harris to make this decision. It could also impact on her career, since she was rumored to be a possible replacement for US AG Eric Holder. Pushing hard against the Obama administration’s support of this agreement could take her out of consideration.
Dayen concludes, and I agree, that:
As for Tom Miller, his dream of getting the banks off the hook for their crimes is dead and buried. Without California and New York, you’re not going to be able to have a settlement that means anything. He’s probably looking for a way out right now.
The investigations have to be followed through. But this is a victory so far for accountability and against the whitewashes that have characterized the nation’s response to systemic fraud in an increasing and troubling fashion over the past several years.
Considering the success that Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto had in a settlement with Morgan Stanley over mortgage practices that essentially garnered about $57,000 for some 600 to 700 Nevada homeowners, AG Harris’ withdrawal from the negotiations is a wise choice for Californians.