Through North Carolina United Power, I have been participating with a working group of national organizations who are in conversation with the AGs about the Foreclosure Fraud Investigation. Recently, we took a group to Chicago to meet with some of them about their work to protect homeowners and keep families in their homes. I was interviewed by the local CBS radio affiliate in the hours before our meeting.
Among the key items of our agenda are:
- broad availability of principal reductions to reset the housing market and remove the risk of more foreclosures;
- remedies for all who have been harmed by fraud other criminal acts, whether they have already suffered foreclosure, are in process, or are facing impending foreclosure;
- the end of dual tracking, with simultaneous loan modification discussions and foreclosure procedures;
- all possible efforts for loan modifications and other non-foreclosure procedures should precede the initiation of foreclosure procedures;
- criminal prosecutions for criminal acts; and
- regulatory regimes to keep this kind of mortgage fraud from being repeated.
In organizing, we plan an action to get a reaction. When we get our reaction, then we evaluate what we have learned and begin to plan future research and actions in light of it. Our action in Chicago revealed a number of important things about our work on to change the conditions faced by so many families being hit by foreclosures.
This action showed something to our organizing groups, to the four AGs present in our meeting, to the many other AGs at the hotel but not at our meeting, and to the press and their readers. To us, it showed that we have the power to bring the key law enforcement figures in the foreclosure negotiations to the table, even if we and they know they cannot negotiate publicly with us about potential criminal proceedings against banks. Not only do they meet with bankers. They also meet with us.
To the AGs present, we were able to deliver a multiracial, multiethnic, knowledgable, prepared, faith-based and non-faith-based, nationwide constituency to speak intelligently and passionately about this critical work they are doing. They found us to be what we said, representatives of hundreds of thousands of citizens, thousands of churches and synagogues and mosques, and from states all across the nation.
To the AGs not present, we made it publicly clear that their colleagues who are leading in this foreclosure investigation are willing to meet with us. Miller, Cooper, Madigan, and Jepsen will meet with us not only in their private chambers back home but in a public forum where they can express, even with the press in the room, their strong agreement with our agenda. They were very adamant that they would not settle for an agreement that did not fundamentally change the practices of mortgage lending and foreclosure. They believe the result must benefit homeowners and borrowers, not primarily get lenders off the hook.
To the press and their readers (including bankers) we were able to show that the case for principle reduction remains strong, with a powerful constituency. Among the key items reported was the commitment to take banks to court if the negotiations do not bring fundamental change. These AG negotiators have not given up on a strong settlement and will not accept a weak settlement. Our action got broad coverage in newspapers and in banking industry news sources.
The investigation and negotiation of a settlement could come very soon. Or it could drag on through the summer. Sooner is better, and we are expecting to see a court decree with tools to provide real help to homeowners.