More on Corruption in the Florida Attorney General’s Office: Staff Intervenes to Help Lender Processing Services When it is the Target of a Fraud Investigation

As hedge fund manager David Einhorn (known best for his public skepticism of Lehman’s accounting) apparently says regarding situations that don’t pass the smell test, “No matter how bad you think it is, it’s worse.”

Abigail Field’s post on how the Florida attorney general’s office befriends foreclosure fraudsters is an important, if nausea-inducing read. One of the striking sections that makes the extent of the corruption clear is a snippet toward the end. It show how the AG’s office acted to help Lender Processing Services do damage control, when it had LPS under investigation for foreclosure frauds.

Field points out that the investigation of LPS was launched under the previous AG, Bill McCollum, and is supposedly still active:

Field goes through the current AG Pam Bondi’s fraudster-favoring conduct, which is less surprising than it ought to be, since the AG’s Economic Crimes Division has a proud history of being more in bed with probable criminals than against them. Here Field relies on the report of a former seven year staffer in the AG’s office, attorney Andrew Spark, who wrote after Bondi took office about the long standing considerable obstacles to serving the public interest, such as the all too predictable revolving door (with former employees going to foreclosure mills). While Spark made it clear that he was not a supporter of the aggressive Clarkson/Edwards position (these were the two employees we wrote about yesterday who were fired under suspicious circumstances), he nevertheless presents damning evidence in the section of his letter titled “Powerful interests have influence.” Field refers to this letter in her discussion:

An example of precisely how the right attorney is able to assist their client with the Florida Attorney General’s Office involves the national negotiation over foreclosure fraud. Although the discussion of those negotiations typically centers on the bailed-out banks, Lender Processing Services is also involved. Indeed, [Michigan’s] Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette issued criminal subpoenas to LPS. And in two emails obtained by Lisa Epstein in response to a public records request, LPS’s outside counsel Baker & McKenzie LLP asks the Florida AG’s office with help in minimizing the damage of the subpoenas to LPS and with persuading Michigan to switch its investigation from criminal to civil.

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! The emails are part of a longer string available on Scrib’d here. If you look at the one on page 5, it’s clear Baker & McKenzie represent LPS. Then look at page 24, and then page 9.

On page 24 you find this email dated June 15th, written by Baker & McKenzie partner Joan E. Meyer:

“Vicki–[Vicki Butler is Spark’s former boss in the economic crimes division]

“If you have a chance this afternoon, I’d like to catch up. We just received notification that the MI AG (Bill Schuette) announced the issuance of criminal subpoenas against LPS and Docx. [sic] When I called, the assigned investigator hadn’t even heard of the AG meeting with LPS. I know that Michigan was already committed to be an on-site attendee. Could I talk to you about this issue generally? 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.”

Meyer then gives her contact information and signs the email.

If you look at page 9, here’s what you read:

“Vicki–

“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.”

“Thanks and Regards,

“Joan”

Again, these asks go beyond beyond the types of issues raised by Spark, because it is a request that the FL AG’s office assist a company that it is itself investigating persuade another AG’s office to go easy on it, and switch from a criminal to a civil investigation.

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.

And it should come as no surprise that Spark left the Florida AG’s office shortly after sending his letter. Any seriousness about investigating bad conduct is a career limiting move in the Bondi regime.

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21 comments

  1. Matthew G. Saroff

    Here’s a question: At what point does a “business friendly climate” become so corrupt that it is actually bad for business?

    It sounds like Florida is a place where one should not do business, because unless you are one of the people with juice, you will get shaken down.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      MGS, exactly. We the People DO have the power to boycott Florida and its “pristine bitches.”

    2. F. Beard

      At what point does a “business friendly climate” become so corrupt that it is actually bad for business? Matthew G. Saroff

      Just now in my case. I will NEVER live in Florida if I can help it.

    3. JCC

      A small goroup of friends and myself, all who have lived in FL at one time or another for a year or two apiece, have been referring to FL as a “Thief Magnet” for the last 35 years or so. From the lowliest “pool repairman” to the State AG Office, it was ever thus, and obviously there has been no improvement.

      1. SidFinster

        Look up convicted Ponzi artist Scott Rothstein’s testimony – he was bribing Florida law enforcement and judicial officials, buying hookers for cops, faking a settlement agreement in a Federal lawsuit (how does anyone have the chutzpah to pull a stunt like that?), busting a pot dealing scheme operating out of his law office (“I was running a Ponzi – I can’t have lawyers dealing pot out of the office!”), denying rumors about the murder of one of his law partners, and otherwise living the high life while racking up a USD 1 billion fraud.

        Not so long ago, some folks even considered Rothstein as a legitimate candidate for state office down in Florida.

    4. fledermaus

      “Here’s a question: At what point does a “business friendly climate” become so corrupt that it is actually bad for business?”

      Hi, Hyman Minsky!

  2. Jack M.Hoff

    Business as usual. Crooks and theives look out for one another. The thing is that theyre permeated throughout the system. In other words, there’s not much else in this country.

  3. patrick

    When things are as blatant as this then you must assume that there has been a prior pattern of behavior that encouraged it. There has to be a slippery slope of actions that the Florida AG’s office has participated. So there is probably plenty of additional evidence for those who wish to find it. The problem is who has the interest? My guess is that nobody of consequence in Florida will look at this.

  4. LeonovaBalletRusse

    No, I have NO doubt about the meaning of that phrase, within the frame.

    Thank you for this great reportage.

  5. Susan the other

    I thought Bondi just did an about face and asked the Fla Court to advise her on her options to go after the robosigners. No? I probably misread that blurb (it was in Foreclosurefraud I think).

  6. Roger B Houghton

    Ah, the AG in the novel role of Defendant’s advocate!

    I think this, and several similar reports, indicate policy at the State and Federal level – “you got us into this mess, you sort it out. Prosecutions will be withheld until we see how well you have done.”

  7. lindaamick

    The pattern is the same everywhere you go in the USA. I worked for Nortel for 25 years. GE management took over in 2005 basically to perform a “Romney” on the company..ie, get over extended in debt, cut any inputs into the company such as R&D, and then slide into Chapter 11 “restructuring” to shed all financial responsibilities to employees. Execs make out like bandits even getting bonuses during bankruptcy for cutting staff!!! (the greater number, the quicker, the bigger bonus.) Anybody making waves is fired immediately. Children always follow the lead of parental behaviors. When the President, Government Officials and all Corporate Leaders are crooks, then everybody strives to be a crook. Its dog eat dog. The only good thing about it is we will all go down together and as a society, we deserve it.

    1. Blunt

      “we deserve it.”

      I understand the feeling, but totally disagree with the statement I have quoted.

      We all do not deserve it. There are others who obviously do.

      I am reminded of the story of Alvarez, one of Pizarro’s conquistadores in Chile who appears to have been fed molten gold when captured by the Indios he was subjugating. The story appears instructive on more than one level.

  8. Francois T

    And some Americans have the nerve to criticize and demean other Western countries for their system of justice?

    FMP!!

  9. Tyzão

    http://floridaindependent.com/63452/pam-bondi-foreclosure-fraud

    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/fl-bondi-firings-upheld-20120106,0,7687354.story

    I guess the 2million the assistant AGs had little effect for Bondi & Scotts’ political careers. LPS’ ~200k on the table (and who knows what else) was the “powerful influence.”

    During the 90s and first decade of the new century, Bank of America was actively seeking to influence local governments all across the state, permitting urban sprawl — and the conversion of huge agricultural tracts to low density single family homes. They were especially successful in southwest Florida, where foreclosure rates are somewhere around 1 for every 100 households. If all of these land use laws hadn’t been grossly compromised, the extent of the foreclosure crisis in Florida would have been much much less severe.

    Its hard for me to believe Bondi is a UF grad.

  10. ECON

    Right on!! Especially when USA exports the corrupt legalities of maintaining American business in dictator regimes. Isn’t it wonderful what “the land of the free and home of the brave”
    can give.

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