At least New York’s Attorney General is not in anybody’s pocket

NYHTC — October 03, 2011



Using confusing schemes that would make Charles Ponzi blush, control over legally purchased government officials, and unscrupulous salesmanship, America's thieving bankers (not all bankers, just the thieving ones) have caused untold destruction to the nation's economy and terrible suffering to millions of people here and around the world. Pension funds have been pillaged, jobs wiped out, homes confiscated, communities blighted, state and local governments pushed to the verge of bankruptcy, all the inevitable result of the runaway greed of a small number of wealthy people. Those responsible for the disaster should be sent to jail, but most of the government officials whose duty it is to protect the public are instead falling all over themselves frantically seeking to prevent justice from being done.

Fortunately, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is an exception. Schneiderman is courageously standing up to the banks and the elected and unelected lackeys they keep in their pockets like loose change. Recently, his efforts on behalf of struggling homeowners got him "fired" from the executive committee of a nationwide group of the state attorneys general charged with investigating the outrageous mortgage loan and foreclosure practices that ensnared and harmed so many families. Mr. Schneiderman should consider his ejection from the committee a badge of honor.

He was thrown off the so-called "Mortgage Abuse Panel" because he refused to go along with efforts by the federal government to pressure all 50 states into negotiating a sweetheart deal with the nation's five biggest mortgage providers that would shield those banks from prosecution or liability for possible illegal lending and foreclosure practices. The federal government and many of the attorneys general of other states appear to want to sweep the case against the banks under the rug, and head off any investigation that might expose to public scrutiny the filthy truth about what happened in the mortgage meltdown.

Since assuming his position in January of this year, Schneiderman and his staff of lawyers and investigators have been conducting independent investigations into mortgage fraud and wrongful foreclosures, as well as into the improprieties financial institutions committed in their frenzied packaging and selling of mortgage-backed securities.

He and several other state attorneys general, such as Beau Biden of Delaware and Martha Coakley of Massachussetts, do not want their investigations compromised or their right to prosecute those who committed mortgage-related crimes limited, by the terms of the settlement the committee is pursuing with unseemly haste.  Mr. Schneiderman has persisted in raising questions about the prospective settlement.  He wants a "Ëcomprehensive resolution'" that does not preempt ongoing investigations or otherwise preclude wrongdoers from being held accountable-not only for mortgage-related illegal activity but also for the marketing of the toxic mortgage securities.

Evidently displeased by Attorney General Schneiderman's strongly expressed concerns, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller abruptly removed him from the executive committee on August 23, 2011. In a statement issued the same day and reported in the Huffington Post, Attorney General Miller, who heads the committee, stated:

... working to actively undermine a multistate [committee of State Attorneys General] while still a member of the Executive Committee simply doesn't make sense, is unprecedented, and is unacceptable. Accordingly, I today informed New York that it is no longer a member of the Executive Committee. reported that Miller spokesperson Geoff Greenwood "declined to elaborate on how Miller thought Schneiderman has undermined the group."

In an editorial that appeared the day before Miller took action, the New York Times stated, "Mr. Schneiderman ... has rightly refused to go along with a settlement that is not based on a thorough investigation" and "should stand his ground in not supporting the deal." The editorial also expressed doubt that the $20 million figure the banks would reportedly pay "would provide redress on a par with banks' wrongdoing or borrowers' needs."

Many others hold the same views. In the immediate aftermath of our attorney general's removal, some three dozen organizations, advocacy groups, and unions, including UNITE HERE, sent a powerful joint letter to every state attorney general on the executive committee and to two federal officials, echoing Mr. Schneiderman's concerns about the scope and terms of the settlement. In addition, all 21 of the Democrats in the New York congressional delegation wrote Attorney General Miller protesting his action.

As Attorney General of the State of New York, Eric Schneiderman has distinguished himself by taking on powerful opponents corporate, governmental, and others who put their own interests above the well-being of the people of the state of New York. By way of example: he has taken important steps to protect New Yorkers from possible nuclear accidents at Indian Point; he has pursued initiatives to protect the state's water supply and its environment from being despoiled by hydraulic fracturing; and he has joined with the New York State Comptroller to facilitate more aggressive rooting out of governmental corruption.

So, too, his actions in response to the expansive mortgage scandal mess demonstrate that he is committed to identifying and holding accountable those who engaged in mortgage fraud, wrongful foreclosures, and mortgage securities improprieties, no matter who they may be. Instead of worrying about how to protect the monied interests, as so many other politicians do, Eric Schneiderman is concerned about protecting us. And he is not just talking about it, he's doing it.

NYHTC members can and should feel very good about the many hours of volunteer work they contributed to his campaign.

Editorial: It's a Flawed Settlement. New York Times. August 22, 2011.

Nasiripoir, Shahien. New York Attorney General Kicked Off Government Group Leading Foreclosure Probe. Huffington Post Business. August 23, 2011; updated August 24, 2011.

McLaughlin, David. New York Removed From Leadership Role in Bank Foreclosure Settlement Talks. August 24, 2011.

Benjamin, Liz. Blog: Siding with Schneiderman. Albany Times Union. August 25, 2011.

Freedlander, David. Nadler, NY Delegation Rally Around Schneiderman. PolitickerNY. August 30, 2011.