Monday Morning Cup of Coffee takes a look at news coming across HousingWire’s weekend desk, with more coverage to come on larger issues.

Amazon is insisting the cities on its shortlist for its second headquarters keep quiet about their bids with the e-commerce giant. CNBC's Scott Cohn confirmed late last week that Amazon insisted cities shift to a more confidential tone as the next round of talks for HQ2’s potential location progress.   

Last Thursday, at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told CNBC: "It's like a poker game,” adding: "Bring the bidding war on.”

Other mayors made statements about the gag to the network:

"We aren't gonna really talk about what's on the table," said Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Browser.

"It's a very secretive process. We're obviously bound by confidentiality," said Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

"If I were to lay out now what we'll offer it would be criticized and looked at, and determined whether it's good or bad," said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. "We have people saying we don't want Amazon because housing prices will go up or it will be too crowded. These are problems we'd love to manage."

[Also read: Amazon pick for second HQ likely in already overheated housing market]

A recent analysis by the Wall Street Journal pits the shortlisted cities’ strengths and weaknesses against each other to see who may have the better advantage to win over Amazon and the 

The analysis looks at six factors: tech labor force, fiscal health, cost of living, college education, culture fit and state tax rank.

Who came out on top? Dallas scored the top ranking from WSJ’s analysts for its "large tech labor force and middle-of-the-road ranks for nearly everything else."

A new survey from LendingTree asked more than 1,000 Americans about their financial resolutions and goals for 2018. One question asked respondents what they would do if they came into $10,000 windfall and 36% of participants said they would pay down debt before investing, "whether it was credit-card based, or from an existing mortgage or loan." Smart move. 

The survey found that most Americans are generally optimistic about their 2018 financial prospects and plan to tackle debt head-on in the new year.

Here are some notable findings from the survey:

  • Paying down debt is the financial goal Americans are most optimistic about in 2018
  • 67% of Americans expect their finances to improve in 2018
  • Of those planning to consolidate debt, 60% haven’t thought about how to handle it
  • Unexpected expenses and making ends meet are the top money concerns in 2018
  • 55% of Americans say they check their finances at least once a week

LendingTree’s survey also found that Millennials were the most optimistic demographic, with 79% of the generation expecting their finances to improve this year (does this mean more money for avocado toast?). In contrast, 55% of those above the age of 50 said they expect their finances to improve.

The Chicago Tribune reported Friday that a former associate of the now-indicted Cook County Judge Jessica Arong O’Brien pleaded guilty to her role in a $1.4 million mortgage fraud scheme. She is expected to testify at O’Brien’s criminal trial next month.

Maria Bartko, of Streamwood, Illinois, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud affecting a financial institution.

From the article:

U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin put off setting a sentencing date until after Bartko’s anticipated testimony against O’Brien, who is scheduled to go to trial Feb. 5 on mail and bank fraud charges stemming from the same alleged scheme. O’Brien has pleaded not guilty.

Federal sentencing guidelines call for up to about three years in prison for Bartko, but prosecutors said they will recommend a reduced sentence of about a year and a half if she testifies truthfully, according to her plea agreement.

At the time of the alleged scheme, Bartko was a loan originator at Amronbanc Mortgage Corp., where O’Brien was working part time, according to the indictment.

O'Brien was indicted last year, charged with lying to lenders to obtain more than $1.4 million in mortgages on two investment properties located on the city’s South Side between 2004 and 2007, when she owned a real estate company and worked part time as a loan originator for a Lincolnwood, Illinois-based real estate company. At the time, O’Brien was also working as a special assistant attorney general for the Illinois Department of Revenue, according to the Chicago Tribune’s report.

Stay tuned as HousingWire brings you coverage on the latest news and happenings in mortgage finance. Have a good week, everyone!