The so-called 50 state attorney general mortgage settlement negotiations (a bit of a misnomer, since at least 4 attorneys general appear to be out, and various Federal banking regulators are alos party to the deal) are looking more and more like a desperate effort to reach any kind of a deal so as to save the officialdom’s face. The only good news is the banks are so insistent on total victory that despite the efforts to pretend the talks are making progress, the odds of a deal being consummated still look remote.
It is nevertheless frustrating to continue to see the media depict the flailing about by the attorneys general headed by Tom Miller as progress. I’ve been involved in negotiations for much of my career, and I’ve never seen so much incompetence on open display. The Financial Times headline, “US banks offered deal over lawsuit” is substantively misleading. You can’t credibly put forward a proposal unless your side has signed off on it. Yet he has just made an offer that his own side may not support. And this isn’t the first time Miller has pulled this trick.
Per the Financial Times:
According to five people with direct knowledge of the discussions, state prosecutors have proposed settlement language in the “robosigning” case that also might release the companies from legal liability for wrongful securitisation practices.
Some state officials have expressed concern that they have offered the banks far too broad a release from liability. Others say the broad language was perhaps inadvertently crafted and will be tightened as negotiations continue. Participants on both sides stressed the talks remain fluid.
The article later gives more of the substance of the proposed release, and it isn’t hard to see why some attorneys general have reservations:
The worry over the states’ counterproposal stems from its treatment of loan documents. The term sheet proposes to release the banks from legal liability over how mortgage documents were maintained, prepared and transferred, people familiar with the matter said.
Though the counteroffer attempts to release the banks from liability with respect to home repossessions, and explicitly states that the release does not include securitisation claims, the language is broad enough in that it could prevent state officials from bringing securitisation claims in the future should they sign up to the agreement.
At the heart of securitisation claims, which involve missteps in how home mortgages were bundled into bonds, are allegations that the banks did not properly maintain and transfer documents from one step in the complicated chain to the next.
Be sure to check out the rest of the details here…