As I explained in my story on the whitewashing of the firing of two foreclosure fraud investigators in Florida, the Attorney General’s office appeared to be advocating for the interests of the targets of their investigations more than the public interests advocated by the AG’s own lawyers. Now that advocacy has been revealed as explicit.
The invaluable Abigail Field has a long piece about Pam Bondi, the Florida AG, incidentally a member of the executive committee on the foreclosure fraud settlement led by Iowa AG Tom Miller, and her ties to the foreclosure industry in Florida. These include the usual financial ties, but also the sense that the Florida AG’s office was a no-go zone for investigations against banks, servicers and the entities that pushed foreclosure fraud. And Field uncovers a long history of this.
The Economic Crimes Division of that office habitually ignored or dismissed crimes happening in the state. And in one case, they lobbied an AG in another state on behalf of the target of a national investigation.
The story concerns Lender Processing Services (LPS), the foreclosure document processor currently under indictment in Nevada for its practices. Michigan’s Republican Attorney General, Bill Schuette, issued criminal subpoenas to LPS in June of last year. And Lisa Epstein, the foreclosure fraud blogger, obtained through a public records request communications between LPS’ attorneys at Baker & McKenzie and the Florida AG’s office. In them, Baker & McKenzie asks the Florida AG to help them persuade Schuette to switch his subpoenas from criminal to civil ones.
Though stunning in and of itself–it’s a new height of special influence when a company targeted for criminal investigation by one AG can call up the Florida AG and ask it to run interference–it’s far worse when you remember that at the time Baker & McKenzie made that request, LPS was under investigation by the FLORIDA AG’S OFFICE!
Joan Meyer is a partner for Baker & McKenzie; Victoria Butler works in the AG’s office. She asks in the first email to “catch up” about the Michigan criminal subpoenas, and adds that “These public announcements can deeply impact LPS’s business operations and stock price and seem unnecessary if the AGs who issue them have already agreed to a meeting. Wondering if there’s anything we can do.” The meeting she refers to is part of the wider foreclosure fraud investigation.
In the second email, Meyer adds that “Sue Sanford from the Michigan AG’s Office is going to call you about the State AG meeting with LPS. She may ask about converting her investigation from criminal to civil. If you are comfortable, please encourage her to join the civil group. I would like to share information with her and get her up to date regarding the information we provided at the meeting but thus far cannot because of the criminal restrictions.”
This is a lawyer for LPS encouraging one AG office to lobby another, to get criminal subpoenas converted to civil ones. This came at a time when LPS was under active investigation by the state of Florida. Yves Smith relates this to the firing of June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards:
Now with this context, do you have ANY doubt as to what Richard Lawson meant when he told Clarkson and Edwards that he wanted them to handle their investigations “with great sensitivity”? The message was to at most go through the motions but not ruffle any feathers.
There are dozens of emails documenting additional LPA/Florida AG links. The Florida AG’s office is basically a subsidiary of the foreclosure fraud industry.