Foreclosure Crimes

Charges tie Shurtleff job interview to Bank of America deal

Allegations » Former A.G., law firm deny he got post for his foreclosure case decision.

Then-Attorney General Mark Shurtleff interviewed for a job with a law firm that represents Bank of America just two months before he personally signed a settlement of a lawsuit against the financial giant over whether it was illegally foreclosing on homes in Utah.

He subsequently was hired for the post.

The disclosure of the two days of job interviews was included in criminal charges filed Tuesday against Shurtleff and his handpicked successor, John Swallow, who resigned in December in the wake of investigations that engulfed the two.

By agreeing at the end of 2012 to dismiss the federal lawsuit against Bank of America, Shurtleff scuttled what attorneys in his own office believed was the strongest case that the bank’s foreclosure arm, ReconTrust, had been illegally foreclosing on thousands of Utah homes. One estimate put the possible loss to Utah homeowners from the dismissal at tens of millions of dollars.

Among the 10 charges filed against Shurtleff was “Count 7, Accepting Employment That Would Impair Judgment,” a second-degree felony. Among the possible violations listed under that law is one for accepting employment “that he might expect would impair his independence of judgment in the performance of his public duties.”

The attorney general’s office intervened in 2012 in the lawsuit brought by homeowners Timothy and Jennifer Bell after U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins issued a ruling highly critical of Bank of America’s position that it was legally operating under the laws of Texas, where ReconTrust is located, when it foreclosed in Utah.

The Bells went on to settle their case based on terms of a nationwide legal deal with Bank of America but assistant Utah attorneys general wanted to continue their part of the case.

The state has now intervened in another federal lawsuit over the same issue, said Wade Farraway, an assistant attorney general.

“We’re just concerned Utah law be applied in Utah and not Texas law,” Farraway said Tuesday.

Shurtleff crossed off the names of Farraway and another assistant attorney general and personally signed a notice of dismissal of the Bell case on Dec. 27, 2012, just days before he left office after three terms.

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