This is really, really infuriating. Scheiderman is maybe the only person in America who’s trying to hold banks accountable, and I knew it was just a matter of time before the administration started putting the screws to him for that very reason:
Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, has come under increasing pressure from the Obama administration to drop his opposition to a wide-ranging state settlement with banks over dubious foreclosure practices, according to people briefed on discussions about the deal.
In recent weeks, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and high-level Justice Department officials have been waging an intensifying campaign to try to persuade the attorney general to support the settlement, said the people briefed on the talks.
Mr. Schneiderman and top prosecutors in some other states have objected to the proposed settlement with major banks, saying it would restrict their ability to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing in a variety of areas, including the bundling of loans in mortgage securities.
But Mr. Donovan and others in the administration have been contacting not only Mr. Schneiderman but his allies, including consumer groups and advocates for borrowers, seeking help to secure the attorney general’s participation in the deal, these people said. One recipient described the calls from Mr. Donovan, but asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.
Not surprising, the large banks, which are eager to reach a settlement, have grown increasingly frustrated with Mr. Schneiderman. Bank officials recently discussed asking Mr. Donovan for help in changing the attorney general’s mind, according to a person briefed on those talks.
In an interview on Friday, Mr. Donovan defended his discussions with the attorney general, saying they were motivated by a desire to speed up help for troubled homeowners. But he said he had not spoken to bank officials or their representatives about trying to persuade Mr. Schneiderman to get on board with the deal.
Last week, David Dayen wrote about how the Bank of America was trying to smear Schneiderman:
So having figured out that the Feds cannot come riding to the rescue with another back-door bailout, Bank of America has settled on Plan B. They’ve decided to smear the AGs who are doing their job.
And they’re doing it in a very roundabout way. They’ve trotted out Kathryn Wylde, the President of the Partnership for New York City, to attack Eric Schneiderman for his intervention in the Bank of America settlement with investors over mortgage backed securities. Wylde is going to bat for BofA as well as the Bank of New York Mellon, the trustee for the MBS in the settlement. And she is actually arguing that Schneiderman, by defending the rights of investors and seeking the truth on out and out securitization fraud, is threatening the existence of the financial sector in New York City. No, really.
A BNY Mellon spokesman told me the bank didn’t want to comment on the broader implications of the AG’s filing, but directed me to Kathryn Wylde, CEO of the Partnership for New York City, a business development non-profit. She said that the AG’s “careless action” hurts New York’s standing as a financial center.
“It’s disappointing from the standpoint of the business community that the AG would make a fraud accusation against a major financial institution — in the press,” she told me. “And to not have any consultation with the institution? The bank was blindsided by what appears to be an outrageous charge.” (The AG’s press office didn’t respond to my request of comment.)
BNYM DIRECTED the reporter to Wylde, incidentally. Wylde has done this before, back in November 2009, arguing that breaking up big banks would hurt New York City. This would be outrageous enough on its own. But Wylde happens to sit on the board of directors for the New York Federal Reserve (sub. reqd.).
So you have a board member for an federal overseer of banks on Wall Street … attacking a state regulator for stepping into a settlement where he has found massive fraud in a preliminary investigation. She’s taking up for BNYM, which the NY Fed oversees, against the state Attorney General. This is just a classic case of regulatory capture.
There’s almost no way this is not coordinated. Wylde is pretty powerful in New York circles, I understand, and she’s raising fears of a slowdown to New York City’s main economic engine to stall regulatory oversight. The banks must continue looting, the story goes, or they’ll stop creating jobs in Manhattan. I don’t think Schneiderman is likely to fold under this attempt at pressure, especially because the evidence keeps moving in his favor, rather than the other way.
I hope he’s right.