(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
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.