Recently, I found out that my AG, Doug Gansler (D-MD) was going to give one of a series of workshops regarding the details of the robo-signing settlement deal. Months before this, I had called Mr. Gansler’s office to express my, shall we say “discontent,” with the proposed deal while it was still in its infancy. So I took the time to go to the meeting to ask him about it. (Don’t you just love democracy?)
Also present at the meeting were a couple dozen homeowners, as well as a couple members of Maryland’s 2 larger Occupy groups: Occupy Baltimore & Occupy Frederick.
Gansler seemed pretty happy with himself.
Not to bore you with the details, but a broad overview is as follows:
– Maryland gets $1 billion of the $26 billion deal; it’s the 6th highest of any state
– $870 million of that goes to things like principal reduction, and refinancing at so-called “low-interest rates”
– $24 million for foreclosure fraud victims, who will each receive a $2,000 lump sum payment (around here that’s not even 2 months rent)
– $60 million goes to state and local governments to clean up the various messes that were made (e.g. tearing down vacant houses, counseling services, legal aid)
– The banks have to make payouts; if they don’t disburse the funds, the settlement value will go up. How much, or when the penalty would occur, he never bothered to mention.
– The Obama Administration is currently working out a side deal with Fannie and Freddie to do another settlement deal. (I imagine this probably won’t end well either)
He praised himself because MD got the 6th most money of all the states. Even though MD was hit disproportionately higher, especially the large African-American communities of Prince George’s County & Baltimore which were hit especially hard by racial biases in subprime lending. He acted like he should have gotten extra credit for this, when in fact it is merely fair (if you can even call it that).
Naturally, he pushed this thing as a great deal. But for all these great things, he was convinced that “we” had to make some concessions as well, for some reason that wasn’t explained.
– The state waived criminal claims against the 5 large banks and other mortgage companies. The reason being they went bankrupt, and the statutes of limitations for the cases are coming due. (Which are both BS reasons)
– Individuals can still sue banks for redress. Which is great, because everyone has tens of thousands of dollars sitting under their mattress for legal fees, as if they could beat Goldman Freakin’ Sachs in court in the first place.
– MERS lawsuits are still on the table, as are some criminal liability issues. But again, good luck w/that.
He then thanked Eric Holder (DOJ) & Shaun Donovan (HUD) for pushing the settlement over the finish line. If it weren’t for them, the deal may not have happened. (Make of that what you will)
There was a brief Q&A afterwards, and one person from Occupy Baltimore asked if there was any way to renegotiate or rework any parts of the deal. The answer was a swift “no.” I wanted to ask Mr. Gansler a question or three, and had my chance as the crowd broke up into groups to work with foreclosure counselors.
jest: Hello, Mr. Gansler, nice to meet you. *shakes his hand* I’m not an accountant, a lawyer, or anything so please forgive me.
But I have a question about the math.
The national settlement is $26 billion, of which Maryland gets $1 billion. However, according to your own Maryland Foreclosure Fraud Task Force Report (see pg. 31), there was a $31 billion dollar economic loss in home values in the state of Maryland alone. Additionally, there was an additional $340 million dollars in lost in state and local tax revenue.
Given this, where did the final settlement numbers come from?
Doug Gansler (Douche-MD): Uh… *stutters, stammers, delays* Uh, give me the name of one person who was involved in a foreclosure or in a robo-signing case.
Douche: Give me the name of one person who was involved in a foreclosure or in a robo-signing case.
jest: I don’t want to give other people’s names or private information out, as it is not appropriate. Either way, it’s beside the point, there has been case after case where fraud has been proven. There are cases right now between AIG, Countrywide, monoline insurers who are all claiming that they all defrauded each other.
Douche: *Gets real loud and talks over me b/c he knows I’m right* We tried to go after Countrywide, but proving fraud is blah, blah, blah, and more douchebaggery
jest: That’s not the issue. I simply want to know how a $31 billion dollar problem can have a $1 billion dollar resolution. Where did that number come from?
Douche: *Uncomfortable laughter* Well, this is the first time people at these workshops have been unhappy to get free money!
jest: I remember past lawsuits where people would get multi-million dollar judgements against McDonald’s because their coffee was too hot. People are getting foreclosed fradulently on by a computer program, MERS, and all they get is a $2,000 check? Where did that number come from?
Douche: OK, well how much of the $31 billion should they have gotten?
jest: A lot more than $1 billion.
Douche: Well, how do you decide that? *goes on about some other unrelated diversionary nonsense about jury trials or something, which sets off the guy from Occupy Frederick, ending Gansler’s lame attempt at an “answer” to my question*
Needless to say, I felt a bit of disappointment and irritation regarding the whole thing. He could have at least given me some bullshit answer that I could at least wipe my ass with. I didn’t even get that, he was so evasive. Though I’m not sure why I was disappointed. I knew this was going to happen.
At any rate, it still disgusts me that there seems to be absolutely no economic reason or justification for these settlement numbers. By his reaction, the numbers may have very well come from the banks themselves: “This is the offer, take it or leave it.” Frankly, that’s probably what did happen.
Gansler even implied that this was “free money” on more than one occasion. The money is not free, it is theirs. It was STOLEN from them, and now they are getting a meaningless pittance back in return; and chances are the banks will find a way to weasel their way out of that, or at least delay it for who knows how many years.
There was a condescending “We’re smarter than you, so just take the scraps and gruel because we know what’s good for you” mentality there. Local council members and state senators were there as if they thought face time while showering people with “free money” was a good photo op. They really seemed in denial about how badly this is hurting people. The people I talked to were hopping mad.
I met a couple who said their bank (BofA I think; can’t remember) was trying to foreclose on them on the grounds that the property was vacant. On multiple occasions, they’ve had people try to break into their home, come to find out it was the bank. The last go around, they heard someone drilling through their back door. They opened it and found a repo person from the bank trying to break in; to her credit, she said she would knock next time, as if that is better… I asked what did the cops do about this, and they said “The cops? Who do you think they are owned by? The banks own the cops.” They never even bothered to call…
The banks were enemy number one, but even Obama resentment was palpable. I had a convo with one guy about globalization and China, and how they own all our debt, mortgage and otherwise.
People are a lot smarter than these politicos seem to give them credit for, but there is so much self-defeatism out there that they just bend over and take it. They know it’s wrong, and it’s best they’re ever going to get. Sad thing is, they’re probably right on both points….
I thought there were free pens to write down notes, but as I was leaving I opened it and found it was an anti-bacteria liquid in spray form. After shaking this sleazeball’s hand, I figured I should keep it to remove & kill whatever Democrat Party diseases, parasites, or cooties he may have rubbed off on me. It was kind of disgusting. And fitting.