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Tom Miller Can’t Even Lie Well Anymore: Not Only No Deal By Christmas, As Promised, But Banks Upping Demands Even As Attorneys General Leave Table

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We’ve commented previously on Tom Miller as the contemporary exemplar of what in the 1960s was called a credibility gap. Readers no doubt know that he is the lead negotiator on behalf of the state attorneys general in what was formerly called the 50 state attorney general [mortgage] settlement. (Notice separately how the state AGs are providing cover for several Federal banking regulators, HUD and the Department of Justice, which are also parties to this deal).

A partial recap: Miller started by promising criminal prosecutions, then reneged. He has refused to do investigations, then had the temerity to try to claim they took place). He said there would not be a big waiver on mortgage liability, when as we discussed, that was the only thing Miller & Co. could offer that would get a deal to the numbers he had unwisely committed himself to (north of $20 billion). And several state attorneys general have walked from the deal precisely because they object to the plan in motion: a big release for an impressive-sounding number, when they have an inadequate idea of how much questionable activity is being forgiven.

But the truly absurd part is the continued pretense by Miller that a deal will get done. He’s been saying every few weeks that a deal is weeks away for over a year. In early August, a deal was supposed to be inked by Labor Day. Earlier this month, Miller said a deal would be done by Christmas.

Today we learn (quelle surprise!) that there will be no pact in Santa’s bag. But even more telling, as far as Miller’s veracity is concerned, is another revelation in the report from National Mortgage News. Note that this piece can be characterized as optimistic (or clueless). It keeps up the party line that California attorney general Kamala Harris might rejoin the talks. While she is perceived to be more opportunistic than most state prosecutors, she has been moving further and further away from the settlements. She has teamed up with the most aggressive attorney general, Catherine Masto of Nevada, to investigate mortgage abuses.

So look at the little revelation towards the end of the article:

But a new wrinkle emerged last week when reports surfaced that the banks were also seeking assurances from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that it would release them from liability related to mortgage origination.

The agency dropped out of any talks on the settlement in the spring, after documents revealed that CFPB officials had spoken with state officials about the settlement. The industry accused Elizabeth Warren and the bureau of meddling in the negotiations — they suggested it was CFPB that proposed the initial $20 billion settlement amount — and Republicans blasted it for acting without any legal authority. Warren insisted that she merely gave advice to the state AGs when asked.

Since then, the CFPB has not been involved in any settlement negotiations, save for an occasional briefing from federal officials.

So get this: we don’t have a deal and the teeny odds of getting one done keep shrinking. The biggest items to be negotiated, the release (this deal is scope of release v. cash, the rest is decoration) is still unresolved (as in the two sides are really far apart, as confirmed by how long this charade has continued). AGs have walked over the concessions Miller made. And the banks keep upping their demands. The bank strategy is negotiating in bad faith, and even talks that are faring well will start coming apart with that sort of conduct.

News leaks on the settlement talks continue confirms that when Miller conveys information to the press, you are more likely to be right if you assume what he says to be untrue.

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46 comments

  1. Cindy Elmwood

    I am heartened to hear that more AG’s seem to be defecting. But I’m still concerned that we might not want to take the failure of the settlement as a given. Shouldn’t we each be writing to our respective AG’s to strongly encourage them to reject the settlement, in the name of justice?

    1. DanJS

      Cindy,

      Not only have I written the GA AG about this fiasco, I periodically e-mail his office articles about the massive fraudclosures and recent findings by courts in favor of homeowners.

      Even so I get no responses… except for the first one I sent to his office via a local DA.

      Still I urge those of us who “get it” to deluge the e-mail accounts of AGS and state banking committee legislators with our opinions.

      Sooner or later, the politicos will start “counting voters” and knowing that accepting political donations by the bankers will not help them get an edge on promoting their re-election plans.

      1. Wake Up America!

        Hi Cindy. I also live in Georgia and have attempted to contact our state AG to no avail. Not sure what your situation is but feel free to contact me @ pathelfrick@aol.com to compare notes.

        1. G man

          Way to go ladies, we are amassing a campaign here in Maryland to get the AG to move on an investigation and to bring charges.

          The Commission on Finace Regulation seems to be moving, but I spoke with an investigator and all he had was opinnions. Keep up the great work everyone and Happy Holidays!

  2. Matthew Saroff

    Given the uninterrupted record of Miller on this, corruption, deceit, and sucking up to the banks, it’s clear that he is destined to become Obama’s next Secretary of the Treasury.

    1. 2laneIA

      Miller was Obama’s room mate in law school, and the first Iowa official to come out strongly for him in 2007. I am waiting for the announcement that he will be Attorney General when Holder leaves.

  3. sleeper

    I’m sorry but I find myself taking a dark view -

    Mr. Miller is obviously running interference for the present administration. Mr Miller will continue to make a fool of himself with more and more lies (I was planning on being charitable but let’s call a spade a spade.) The administration and most state AGs will use Mr. Miller as a exhibit to show that “We get it. We’re working on it.”

    But no real investigation, no indictments, no attempt to recapture filing fees.

    Basically the plan is to kick the can down the road if only till the election is over – note that neither party has raised the mortgage market excesses as an issue.

    This is the perfect chance for a good government advocate to run the government like a business especially the open issue of the use of MERS to avoid filing fees.

    1. Lambert Strether

      “Neither party…” Yes, one might almost imagine that the legacy parties had the same agenda on this.

      Witness the R tub-thumping on Solyndra, which is chump change compared to accounting control fraud, for which, oddly, or not, there have been no investigations at all.

    2. CB

      “This is the perfect chance for a good government advocate to run the government like a business…” I see the problem being that the government is run as a business.

      1. sleeper

        I only point out that the failure of the local Register of Deeds / Clerk of Court in generally not collecting the real estate transaction fees on MERS transactions.

        What business could continue to operate if it did not collect fees for services or value added ?

        So when the stump speeches or campaign literature mentions running government as a business the MERS transactions / fee avoidance is at best a ready opportunity to let action follow words and at worse another illustration of the cozy relationship between the 1% and lap dog governments.

        I only wish to point out the contradiction not to advocate a government / business model.

  4. Siggy

    This business of delaying the dealing with problems until after the election is going to hurt both parties and the country dearly. What happens when the statutes of limitation run out and we find that we have all these residential properties with clouded titles. What happens then? Who will insure title? Who will accept anything less than a warranty deed?

    This isn’t a question of filing fees, this is a question of good and mercantable title conveyance. Now, without good title, how long will it take for the housing markets to adjsut to the new price structures? Miller is being very follish in his endeavors, how long will the good citizens of Iowa tolerate his folly?

    1. Susan the other

      Title issues are really going to be a huge problem. There is no method but quiet title as it stands now. And the admonition to all homeowners is that if your current mortgage, or any mortgage in the last 20 years, went into MERS, your title is defective because the chain has been lost. What we need is an expedited system for doing quiet title that doesn’t take the usual 6-plus years. Congress could deliberate some method, maybe some umbrella national solution, but in the end all titles are controlled by the states. So the states will have to set up new agencies to process this stuff. I think the big banks, the “members” of MERS, should pay for the entire cleanup. And if it isn’t done in a timely manner they should be assessed for damages.

  5. Stupendous Man - Defender of Liberty, Foe of Tyranny

    Yves,

    I’ve been looking for a way to contact you privately. Thus far I have not found it. Instead I offer this.

    I’d like to communicate with you privately. Would you please contact me at Glenn.bpia@gmail.com?

    Sincerely,

    Stupendous Man

    1. Woodrow Wilson

      Seriously? You’re not looking hard enough, it’s right on this page…figure it out. Worked fine for me.

  6. Kate J

    I left a voice mail for my AG, Rob McKenna last week after he was on a local radio program boasting about how great the settlement was going to be for homeowners and promising the settlement would come in December. I contrasted what he was saying with what Senator Maria Cantwell demanded of Eric Holder last week, that the Justice Department join with NY AG Schneiderman in prosecuting fraud. Here is the email that came back from his office:

    Dear Ms. Johansson:

    Thank you for your inquiry about our ongoing settlement negotiations with the big banks over robo-signing and other foreclosure and loan servicing practices. There has been a lot in the news and in the blogosphere lately about these negotiations between the country’s largest mortgage loan servicers and a group of state attorneys general and a number of federal agencies. Our Attorney General and staff are among the longtime leaders in the fight to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive lending practices. From that perspective, let me give you our perspective on the negotiations and the potential settlement.

    Beware the misrepresentations, distortions and outright falsehoods being circulated by those who don’t know the substance of the settlement negotiations. The truth is that the settlement is still being negotiated and criticism of it at this point is rank speculation. Nevertheless, it is not too early to make a few observations as negotiations continue.

    A settlement promises significant benefits for distressed homeowners. We estimate the final settlement amount will be in the tens of billions of dollars in total value – unless it is allowed to be indefinitely stopped by critics who insist on diverting our focus away from the needs of homeowners. Those harmed by the mortgage meltdown need relief now, not months or years down the road. Every day we delay, more homeowners face losing their homes to foreclosure.

    A settlement promises new approaches to the problems. For example, principal reduction for “under water” borrowers is very much on the table and will likely be part of any settlement. The settlement will also set new and stronger standards for loan servicing, including provisions that will ensure greater accuracy, timeliness and greater responsiveness to borrowers.

    A settlement will not give the banks “total immunity” or a “blanket” or other broad release of matters not covered by the settlement. As is typical of all multistate settlements, the States will provide the servicers with a release appropriate to the relief they provide homeowners, including increased loss mitigation efforts and reformed systems to ensure that these servicing problems do not reoccur. Moreover, there will be no amnesty from criminal prosecution. This is a civil investigation not a criminal one. The states have never contemplated doing anything that would interfere with any criminal prosecution. While some state attorneys general have criminal jurisdiction, many are like Washington State, where the Attorney General does not have original criminal jurisdiction. If you have concerns regarding criminal prosecutions, you should address those to criminal prosecutors such as the U.S. Attorney’s Office or local county prosecutors. But you should also understand that over a decade ago, Congress deregulated the financial services industry. That meant there were a lot fewer rules to accuse bankers of violating.

    A settlement will not interfere with the work of other state or federal agencies or of attorneys general who elect not to join the settlement nor will it waive any rights of individuals without their consent. The settling states may only release the claims of their own states. They cannot release the claims of states that do not choose to settle or the claims of individuals without their consent. If a state is unhappy with the settlement, they are not required to join it. The settlement will thus have no effect on that state or its citizens.

    The attorneys generals involved in multistate negations with the banks maintain a laser-like focus on bringing as much help to distressed homeowners as soon as we can. The interests of homeowners are not the same as those of the hedge funds and other Wall Street investors he seeks to include in our negotiations. Diverting our energy and losing precious time while investigating the securities industry will only delay relief to homeowners and could blow up our whole effort.

    Contrary to what some have alleged, this settlement will give us more, not less, leverage with the servicers to ensure that the home mortgage servicing industry serves the needs of America’s homeowners, and puts in place national servicing standards they will have to adhere to. We are at a critical juncture in our settlement talks. These negotiations are being handled by a savvy and experienced group of consumer protection professionals who have a long track record of bringing real relief to defrauded mortgage borrowers. If they agree to a settlement, it will be because they believe the terms are in the best interests of America’s homeowners. Combining the claims of private institutional investors with the claims of investors puts homeowners’ interests on the back burner at a crucial time. We believe the settlement holds the prospect of significant and immediate relief to distressed homeowners, which is good for homeowners, good for the real estate marketplace and good for the economy.

    In closing, we recognize that there is much conversation in the blogosphere and that emails from various interest groups are being circulated. However, what I’ve offered here is the view from one of the states actually leading the settlement talks. These remarks are based on factual information about the actual substance of the negotiations. Please take accusations from those not involved in the talks with a healthy dose of skepticism.

    Sincerely,

    MICHELLE FERAZZA LEGAL ASSISTANT

    ’206-464-6491 |7 206-587-5636 |* michellef@atg.wa.gov

    WA State Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Protection Division

    800 Fifth Avenue Suite 2000, Seattle, WA 98104-3188

    1. CB

      What a load of snot. I copied Michelle Ferazza’s address and I will send a short note: Hogwash. I’d love others here to do the same. Let’s put these people on notice.

    1. LucyLulu

      I don’t live in Washington state but this is close to the type of response I’ve received from my state AG.

      Basically I’m not worried about the settlement anymore because I don’t think it will have any significant effect one way or another. McKenna et al. is correct in that some state AG’s have no means of pressing criminal prosecutions. In NC, that is true. It’s a stretch to even press civil suits given the statutes and process used here. There has been no robosigning per se on the deed of trusts filed for foreclosure suits as they must be filed by NC attorneys, and are often filed with the servicer named as beneficiary (particularly when Fannie or Freddie are involved, it is rare to see them named in a suit). No proof of agency is specifically required. I’m sure the same is true in other non-judicial states. In NC, we’ve had exactly one borrower prevail thus far in fighting a foreclosure that I’m aware of (and I’ve followed pretty closely), and that through the appellate system. As much of a joke as the proposed settlement would be in terms of justice, it would probably be better than states like mine could otherwise negotiate through the courts. Other states are in far different positions, having stronger laws governing recording assignments, requirements for demonstrating legal standing, etc. And of course, Holder could take action, but we all know that won’t happen.

      But irregardless, its been over three years since the problems have surfaced, and the statute of limitations for bringing suits on most of the securitizations issues will soon end, and any state AG’s who plan to bring actions against the lenders have done so. The rest, its plain to me, have no intention of doing so, either because they believe they don’t have a sufficient case (e.g. McKenna-WA or Cooper-NC), or due to lack of will (e.g. Bondi in FL). The lenders have already signed consents to stricter servicing procedures last spring. Signing another agreement will make no difference. If they aren’t following procedures or being enforced now, why would signing another agreement make a difference? One term of the agreement would require lenders provide certifications in non-judicial states as to standing. That WOULD be an improvement if not for the fact that lenders in judicial states are already falsifying affidavits. Certifications are merely signed statements whereas affidavits have stronger weight in terms of attestation to the truth, being able to submitted as sworn testimony in court proceedings, and subject to charges of perjury. IOW, why wouldn’t they be expected to also lie on certifications, which has lesser (no) consequences?

      So, whether they reach an agreement or not won’t affect any future prosecutions. If individuals want to bring suit, they still can. If the state AG’s were planning to bring suit, they already would have left the group and done so, IMO. The problem isn’t that we don’t have sufficient servicing requirements, its that they aren’t being enforced. The only thing that an agreement will do is to provide some money (and likely not much) to a small percentage of homeowners who are underwater and some state attorneys’ general budgets.

      At this point, the agreement has become irrelevant. (IMHO)

      1. LucyLulu

        Clarification: Jeff Thigpen, the county clerk from Guilford county in NC, has been on the forefront of the county clerks protesting robosigning, having found thousands of cases here. However these weren’t on deeds of trust, they were on satisfactions of mortgages. That’s why he’s gotten little traction here, the banks are arguing that nobody, certainly not the homeowner, will argue that a satisfaction is invalid (not necessarily true, lenders HAVE rescinded satisfactions, but the argument is being bought). So, yes, robosigning is happening here, but not on deeds of trust or documents filed in foreclosure suits.

    1. LucyLulu

      From above link, very interesting………

      The US government saved the “too big to fail” banks in 2008. The reason? People were unable to pay their mortgages causing the banks billions in losses. The US Government authorized $700 billion to save the banks. The Federal Reserve Bank also gave them short-term loans that were even larger.

      According to a report of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, there was another way. Why not save the people who were at risk? If the people were helped, they would be able to pay their mortgages, the banks would not have needed to be rescued and the financial crisis would have been considerably less severe. The cost? They calculated up to $50 Billion dollars overall – less than 10% of what was approved for banks.

      Refined variants of the proposals that the researchers have worked on would reduce the amount to just $1 billion dollars, the interest cost of deferred payments, which could be paid either by borrowers or servicers.

      The Treasury decided to bail out the banks instead. At the time the US Treasury Secretary was Henry Paulson, previously Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the investment bank Goldman Sachs.

  7. 2little2late

    They seem to forget that you can’t modify fraud. Fraudulent documents = perjury and fraud upon the courts. Can anyone explain to me why this is a negotiation and not an investigation followed by apprehensions and trials? This is nonsense. We’re talking about crimes here, and those are committed by criminals who when caught, have to go away for a while. It’s really easy.

    There’s an alternative to this circus, that is, tossing the offenders in jail and shredding what’s left of their fraudulent enterprise into pieces small enough to never be harmful again. That’s what is supposed to happen to bad guys. They lose.

    I’m reminded of what Bill Black said recently concerning the Obama/Holder see no evil stance…. “If they refuse to do so [man up] and are going to continue to be lap dogs for the elite financial frauds they should at least change the name of the Justice Department”.

    1. Jack M.Hoff

      2little2late, you nailed it. To hell with negotiations. Who has ever gotten anything of value from any bank in a negotiation. They always win.
      Its high time for criminal investigations and some jailtime. Its quite obvious Miller and Co. would like to delay the whole shebang until the statute of limitations has run its course. Not due to monetary reasons but rather for those in the ‘club’ to avoid any jailtime.
      Give those bankers their ‘get-out-of-jail-free-card’ now and I’ll bet the help for the delinquent homeowners will be a freaking joke. They’ll make sure they strap them to more debt than they can handle on their underwater homes that will keep devaluing faster than any payments they might make. What will it gain? Kick the can a little farther huh?

    2. Stupendous Man - Defender of Liberty, Foe of Tyranny

      I hadn’t seen that one from Black. LOLOL It cuts right to the heart of the matter, eh?

    1. Francois T

      Come on Lambert! You know what Brotha Obysmal would answer:

      “The banks did nothing illegal, they only exploited loopholes we’re trying to close.”

  8. Lafayette

    YES, YOU CAN!

    Since then, the CFPB has not been involved in any settlement negotiations, save for an occasional briefing from federal officials.

    Which is a great shame because until the CFPB gets some prosecutorial teeth, this sort of scam will continue to happen in our Toothless Democracy.

    The perpetrators must not walk away unscathed from this colossal failure of market-oversight regulation. They will simply believe that “next time, we gotta be more careful!”

    There must not be a next-time!

    For which our legal system supposedly has jails. The fecklessness of government authorities (either state or local) is not only breathtaking but awful.

    This Banana Republic of ours is saying “Get away with consumer fraud in America? Yes, you can! All you need is a very clever lawyer!” Who will assist you next-time to craft a clever bit of scamming that skirts-the-law but remains credibly deniable as an infraction of it.

    (What are ten thousand corporate lawyers all chained to the bottom of the ocean? A good start …)

  9. rafael bolero

    No use writing our WI AG. He does whatever the Kochs tell Walker to tell him. Right now he’s busy figuring out how the recall is illegal. And our biggest bank, M&I, is now Canadian–so, nothing to do anyway!

  10. robert

    If I were cynical . . .

    I would say that Mr. Miller realized long ago that he was trapped but there was no way out. As has been pointed out many times, to get a large settlement one needs leverage. The only leverage the “almost 50 state AG’s” have without a material investigation is a broad release. But, politically a broad release is a ticking time bomb. If they give out a broad release and it later comes out that people do not have recourse because of the agreement (which is almost a certainty), it will become known as bank bailout 2. (Pitchfork and torch time for all the politicians involved)
    So Miller has to repeat the “it will be done soon” mantra while at the same time looking for a way out. Unfortunately for him, he apparently never heard the old saying “if you are in a hole stop digging”.
    But someone, most likely one of the intelligent bankers, has come up with a brilliant solution. Claim the group is making headway, but the banks need assurances from the CFPB. When the talks collapse, blame the CFPB and repeat the spin on how it was really a good deal for homeowners and bankers were going to take it on the chin. The CFPB takes the blame, the Obama administration is blameless and Mr. Miller can continue his role as lapdog for the large banks. Miller might even get more power for avoiding a PR disaster during an election year from the Obama administration.
    It is a win-win for everyone. (Except for the country and the taxpayers but they don’t count anyway)

    1. LucyLulu

      robert wrote >>“if you are in a hole stop digging”

      I kinda prefer: “if you’re standing in a pile of sh*t, keep on walking”

  11. Jim

    My view is there will be no prosecutions, how long till the statute of limitations takes effect. Stall till then, and only a handslap.

  12. Chunga's Revenge

    Tom Miller’s show plays like a mom who’s a serial failure at “protecting” her children from a series of abusive boyfriends. All the while reasoning “I can’t just leave him, he puts food on the table and a roof overhead.”

  13. Senka

    To refresh our memory – this joke a.k.a. the lead negotiator and the lead liar – has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the very bankers and their associates that he purports to regulate.
    Here is an excerpt from the letter I wrote to Miller in June;such a waste of time, but I was so angry:
    -Do you realize, Attorney General Miller, that Americans are being lied to, cheated, defrauded and stripped of dignity, basic needs, and the wors…t of all, stripped of hope for a better tomorrow? You know who is to blame the most – our government, who silently stood and watched while Wall Street performed the crime of the century.

    You let the CEOs go on with their crazy ride and take us all with them. The price for the ticket is becoming extremely expensive and we finally see crystal clear that we’re the ones paying for that ride over and over again. Our superficially inflated home equity is falling down and we are left to pay for fraudulent, inflated mortgages that are not going to reach the principal balance in the next ten years.-

    Also, our register of deedds, John O’Brien is the man behind MA AG’s lawsuit vs banks. He was the first one to say:”My registry is a crime scene!” – tinyurl.com/7lqfb5r

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