Pricing exceptions are widespread in mortgage — and so are the regulatory risks

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Californians put AG Kamala Harris on the defense

It seems like no matter what California Attorney General Kamala Harris does, she can’t get everyone on the same page — to be bold, the same chapter.

Homeowner advocacy groups California, Occupy Fights Foreclosure sent a pretty aggressive open letter to Harris demanding to know why no prosecutions against banks were being taken, since — according to the local homeowners — the financial institutions are at the helm of creating the crisis of mortgage fraud.

“We do not understand why the crimes behind the tanking of our entire state’s economy, the consequences of which have devastated entire neighborhoods and created extreme hardship for millions of Californians, are not important enough to prosecute and bring to trial,” the letter demanded. 

But let’s pull back on the reigns here, Harris has taken many steps to aid Californians facing hardships due to foreclosures and mortgage fraud. And some of those steps have garnered significant criticism from the mortgage industry for upending the default process, extenuating foreclosure timelines and taking an aggressive rather than market-based approach to fixing the crisis.

The irony is her pro-consumer approach is not inspiring to the consumers afterall. In fact, they’re mad and pushing back too. But Harris’ track record for aggressively pursuing mortgage issues is pretty strong even if it has critics on both sides, which appears to be the case.

The AG previously brought a suit against JPMorgan Chase for fraudulent and unlawful debt-collection practices against borrowers, but the homeowners complaining see this as “a tiny tip of the iceberg.”

Recently, California’s top lawyer granted dozens of organizations millions of dollars in benefits to better assist homeowners affected by the state’s foreclosure crisis. 

California’s National Mortgage Settlement Grant Program awarded $9.4 million to 21 organizations, with the ultimate goal of aiding the state’s neediest homeowners by providing foreclosure intervention aid.

And let’s not forget the time Harris decided to construct a legal task force to handle cases that could surface under the state’s new Homeowner Bill of Rights.

The HBOR program issued a $1 million grant to The National Housing Law Project. The funds will support a powerhouse team of lawyers to investigate and potentially prosecute cases under the homeowner-focused legislation.

But advocacy groups – despite being the populist focus of the Harris campaigns – are not happy.

“You received on your desk last month 18 cases from Home Owners for Justice of criminal acts committed by Recontrust Company of forged, altered and fraudulent documents proven to have been recorded into county records in violation of the Homeowners Bill of Rights. Where are the indictments,” the homeowners questioned in a letter.

It seems that any type of reason Harris has to explain for her lack of action will not be good enough for Californians.

As a result, homeowners are giving Harris six months to bring prosecutions against the big banks against credit card crimes and also demand that the foreclosure mills and third party debt collectors receive identical prosecution, according to their letter.

“As Senator Elizabeth Warren said, when banks can break the law and take in billions and billions of profits, then turn around and settle using tiny sums of money out of those profits, they don’t have much incentive to follow the law,” the letter explained. 

The homeowners continued, “Trials give us days and days of testimony when bank employees are grilled to find out exactly what they’ve been up to. That information needs to be public record. The Homeowners Bill of Rights is not enough.” 

We ask you what Sen. Warren asked regulators: ‘how tough are you?’

The irony is on the other side — the industry has said constant pushback and litigation from parties like Harris is only stalling the market and making it more difficult to move forward.

Either way, no one is winning friends with these large-scale fix-it solutions.

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