By Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. His Twitter feed is http://www.twitter.com/matthewstoller. Cross posted from New Deal 2.0
If NFL fans are demanding negotiations be opened up, why are homeowners kept in the dark?
Zach Carter wrote a good piece on homeowners’ demands of the big banks. National People’s Action has coordinated thousands of homeowners in asking for an aggressive settlement with the banks on their handling of foreclosures. Iowa Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller, who is heading the 50-state investigation, is one of their prime targets.
But it’s this video that makes it interesting.
Here’s the transcript, starting at around :53 into it.
Iowa citizen Mike McCarthy: How close are we to a settlement? And with the settlement, will we have mandatory modifications? Will we have mandatory principal reductions? Will we have restitution for families who were fraudulently kicked out of their home? And also we want to see that these bank officials who were responsible for committing mortgage or foreclosure fraud brought up on criminal charges. I’m gonna ask you again, like I did on December 14. Are we gonna put some people in jail?
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller: We’re really getting close to negotiations. I’m not gonna talk about, I really feel I shouldn’t talk about what’s gonna be in the agreement, what’s not gonna be in the agreement. That’s something we have to hammer out with the Justice Department, and the Federal people, and the banks in a negotiating session. So in terms of talking to you or to the press, we’re pulling back on specific details.
Look at what he’s saying. Miller has decided that he will keep the public in the dark about the negotiations over how banks will deal with the homeowners they hurt. They can’t know when decisions will be made. They can’t know if they will have principal reduced. They can’t know if they will get loan modifications. They can’t know if they will get restitution if they’ve been illegally kicked out of their homes. Miller will not even speak to criminal prosecutions of bankers over mortgage fraud because he is still negotiating with the criminals over whether to bring charges.
The backstory here is that Miller had exuberantly vowed jail time for bankers to Iowa citizens, before backtracking on his commitment. This level of deception by high officials is now routine when it comes to cracking down on lawbreaking by big banks.
It’s not obvious to me why Miller backtracked. I don’t think he ever had any intention of charging any bankers with any criminal charges, that’s just not how law enforcement works these days. My guess is that he didn’t realize that his initial promise to Iowa voters would be taken seriously, and then it blew up in the press. So he decided to stop talking and do the negotiating in secret.
This is not reasonable. If the NFL is being asked to open its books and NFL fans are asking that the negotiations between the players and owners take place in the open, surely the talks over foreclosure fraud can be done with some ability for the public to know what is happening.
Tom Miller may not realize that keeping homeowner victims in the dark while negotiating with the perpetrators is the wrong way to approach criminal activities. But the rest of us do.