I love when reporters are put on stories with a clearly self-imposed frame – in this case, Obama versus “The Left” – and then show themselves to have no knowledge of the details of the situation. Edward-Isaac Dovere commits this sin in the second sentence of his Politico story about the foreclosure fraud settlement, using a term that betrays his ignorance.
This time, the problem is a subprime mortgage settlement that his administration is pressuring state attorneys general to sign off on — a deal that could stop many state investigations and prosecutions about mortgage lending practices.
Exactly what is a “subprime mortgage settlement”? Is the claim that every mortgage the banks sliced and diced and improperly securitized and then tried to cover up with falsified or backdated documents a “subprime” one? Is the idea that there were two mortgage markets, a perfectly legal prime market and a perfectly legal subprime one? Of course not. Dovere knows some buzzword called “subprime” and applies it to the 50 state AG investigation, which isn’t about subprime mortgages per se but over garden variety fraud upon state courts.
Moreover, the idea that there even will be a “subprime mortgage settlement” or a settlement of any kind is spurious. One-quarter of all Democratic Attorneys General, led by New York’s Eric Schneiderman, have said publicly that they will not agree to any settlement that includes a broad liability release without a legitimate investigation to determine the depth of the fraud. [cont’d]
Administration-friendly sources have been pushing reporters on the idea that a settlement is just around the corner for the last six months, in a transparent attempt to pressure the Dem AG holdouts. But in recent weeks, the Schneiderman coalition has only grown, not shrunk. And without New York in the settlement, it will be effectively meaningless, because it will not keep the banks free from liability.
So it’s hard to engage on an article like this at all, because its very premise is in error and the reporter doesn’t have a clue what is going on around him and how he’s being used. I guess it’s something that the reporter was shown details of what the AG negotiators have shown to the banks, but we already knew that they are trying for a broad release that goes beyond robo-signing. In other words, we already knew that Tom Miller and his allies were lying when they said they were carefully circumscribing the liability release. In fact, that revelation is three weeks old. And we already knew that the White House and their AG allies were pressuring Schneiderman, Beau Biden and the rest of the holdouts.
Dovere closes his festival of ignorance with this line:
The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s coming lawsuit against 12 mortgage banks has only further incensed the left — if the Obama administration thinks there’s enough cause for a federal lawsuit, the effort to stop a group of Democratic state attorneys general from pursuing their own efforts makes even less sense, they say, especially with the federal government trying to get all the attorneys general on board with a settlement before they’ve even seen it.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency is not “the Obama administration.” And all the community groups and housing advocates familiar with this issue know that. FHFA is an independent agency that has been seeking repurchases by the banks of bad mortgages on representation and warranty claims for years. FHFA’s lawsuit against the banks is just an extension of that.
Dovere did manage to get almost all of the AGs in the Schneiderman coalition on the record against the settlement, suggesting that there’s no real movement there. The tipping point is Kamala Harris, the California AG. She has serious ties to the Obama Administration and the ambition to become the state’s next governor. But California has been negotiating separately with the banks over foreclosure fraud issues; Harris was in closed-door talks herself with banks on Friday.
The importance placed on California puts Harris in a significant position to hold banks accountable for improper foreclosures. She has been the subject of increased pressure from advocates who say she has not done enough to battle banks’ efforts to get off lightly.
“The banks want to get away with everything, and she is probably one of the linchpins in saying that is going to happen or isn’t going to happen,” said Liz Ryan Murray, the chairwoman of the foreclosure task force at Americans for Financial Reform. “We would like to see her come forward and be more public on what she will and won’t give up.”
If California opts out, there really can be no settlement, not that there would have been one anyway without New York and the bank stronghold of Delaware. Harris appears to be using her leverage to try and get a larger settlement for her state, rather than to force a serious investigation or a reckoning.
Maybe patricians like Michael Bloomberg think that banks shouldn’t have to worry about “what happened in the mortgage crisis three, four years ago,” but that’s not how the criminal justice system works. At least, that’s not how it’s supposed to work. And we’ll see if Harris agrees.
Meanwhile, you can enjoy two excellent stories on Schneiderman, in Salon and, yes, to give them a little credit, Politico.