Washington, D.C. – Like thousands of wronged homeowners, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren recognizes what a colossal failure the National Mortgage Settlement. In a recent letter, the vocal critic of Wall Street, called out Attorney General Eric Holder for his “timid enforcement” of the mortgage settlement, and asked for an explanation.
The National Mortgage Settlement’s original intention was to make certain that homeowners who were somehow wronged by lenders– either through unjust foreclosures, predatory loans, inflated interest fees or one of the many different ways lenders, essentially, screwed over borrowers- -were adequately compensated for their financial harm. But earlier this year, the program was scrapped once regulators learned that it was too cumbersome and costly, only serving to line the pockets of “independent” consultants.
Instead of continuing with the reviews, the feds decided to settle with major lenders for $25 billion which was to be distributed to homeowners. Lenders also agreed to pay an additional $25 million in order to end investigations into their unethical mortgage servicing practices, which included using forged signatures and false documents, along with other illegal practices.
To Senator Warren, that $25 million was a drop in the bucket and that the current financial woes facing the Federal Housing Authority could be assuaged had Attorney General Eric Holder more aggressively pursued lenders for their unsavory practices.
In her letter sent to Attorney General Holder, Warren wrote, “I am concerned that this might be yet another example of the federal government’s timid enforcement strategy against the nation’s largest financial institutions.” She added, “I believe that if DOJ and our banking regulatory agencies prove unwilling over time to take the big banks to trial or even require admission of guilt when they cheat consumers and break the law — either out of timidity or because of a lack of resources — then the agencies lose enormous leverage in settlement negotiations.”
According to the Huffington Post, Warren also chastised the DOJ for “settling on the cheap,” and was concerned that “rushed and inadequate settlements fail to fully compensate victims and taxpayers, and insufficiently deter future misconduct.”
Warren asked for more transparency from the DOJ so that legislators will have the necessary information to draft legislation when they return in September.
Warren’s letter also asked the DOJ to explain how they came up with the $225 million figure and added that the FHA’s current fiscal woes—they are currently experiencing budget shortfalls in the billions because of defaulted or delinquent mortgages– could have been mitigated if the DOJ had taken a more forceful approach towards prosecuting lenders for knowingly violating the law.
Warren’s letter comes just days after the DOJ announced they would be filing additional criminal and civil charges against major lenders for their part in the foreclosure crisis and economic collapse. Even with these prosecutions, it is unlikely that any major player in the banking industry will face any criminal charges for their participation in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.