The Mortgage Settlement: More Lies

Nothing is as it seems and all the optimism about how the mortgage settlement with the banks was about to be sealed with a kiss turns about to be premature. With a deadline of February 3 for states to declare whether they are joining the settlement, some major questions have been raised about just what the definition of “narrow” is for the Obama administration.

From Yves Smith at naked capitalism.

Yet More Mortgage Settlement Lies: Release Looks Broad, Not Narrow; Other States Screwed to Bribe California to Join

While there is every reason to believe there has been some improvement in terms due to the resistance of Schneiderman and other state attorneys general (Beau Biden of Delaware, Martha Coakley of Massachusetts, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, and Kamala Harris of California), the notion that, per Mike Lux, “the settlement release is tight” appears to be patently false.

Since there has yet to be any disclosure of the draft terms, we can’t be certain, but a reading of a letter sent by Nevada’s Masto gives plenty of cause for pause. Reaching inferences from her 38 questions is a Plato’s cave exercise, but some of the items seem pretty clear. [..]

Yves explains the concerns that the banks would be released of liability of not just robosigning but chain of title securitizations and origination issues. She then get to the latter from Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto who submitted a letter to settlement negotiators

Most of her queries are sufficiently technical so as to make it hard to guess with any certainty as to what the language of the agreement might be, but two questions at the top stood out:

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This certainly looks as if Masto sees the origination release as broad. Asking for an itemization of what is NOT included suggests a lot seems to be included.

But this is the whopper:


From early on, we have stressed that this is a cash for release deal, and this looks like a VERY big release. The banks will pay an amount into the fund, and all issues relating to robo-signing and foreclosure will be released by the AGs: the banks will have a state level release from all bad assignment/transfer issues. [..]

Remember, bank executives piously swore in 2010 that they stopped robosigning, yet their firms continue to engage in that practice.

Then there is the matter of trying to bribe California’s AG Kamala Harris back into the fold by giving California 60% of the $25 billion. She notes this article from the Financial Times by Shahien Nasiripour

   California, home to the largest US property market, spurned an offer of roughly $15bn in lower monthly mortgage payments and reduced loan balances for its residents in talks to settle allegations of mortgage-related misdeeds by leading US banks…

   California would have received more than half of about $25bn of aid that would be available to borrowers in a nationwide deal under discussion to settle allegations that banks illegally seized homes using faulty documentation.

   Deal terms, sent to state attorneys-general late last week after nearly a year of talks between the banks and various states and federal agencies, did not include guaranteed minimums for any other states, people familiar with the matter said. Various state officials said they were unaware of the California offer.

Yves notes that AG Masto in question #24 asks for clarification of how much each state would receive.

I agree with Yves that it’s hard to imagine how any attorney general could sign onto this agreement and begs to question why Florida’s AG Pam Bondi would be pushing California to sign on to this and not pushing for a better settlement for the homeowners of her state. Masto certainly did her homework as David Dayen at FDL News Desk noted:

n other words, Masto did her homework and saw this settlement as little more than a framework, without specificity on the release, the level of relief on a per-state basis, and the level of enforcement. Or, in other words, everything. And by the way, they want an answer by the end of the week. That’s clear at the end of Masto’s letter, where she writes: “Because there is a sign-on deadline of February 3, 2012, I need this information as soon as possible to allow my office to continue to evaluate the proposal on behalf of the state of Nevada.”

Every AG should be asking these same questions including Eric Schneiderman.

And that leads to the question of Eric Schneiderman and his motivations for sitting on the sideline and not opposing what appears to be a walk from liability for the banks and screw the homeowners. This is a very disappointing development and it won’t win Obama any votes either.


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