Attorney General: Banks Are Treating Negotiations 'Very Seriously'
Negotiations are underway between state attorneys general and big banks under investigation for shoddy foreclosure practices. A select group of attorneys general - including Roy Cooper of North Carolina - were in Washington to start the discussion yesterday, with support from officials in the Justice and Treasury Departments. Cooper says the meeting was just a starting point. The big banks say they've improved their systems. They no longer have low-level employees automatically signing hundreds of foreclosure documents without reading them. They say they're doing a better job of helping homeowners modify their mortgages. But Attorney General Roy Cooper says he's heard those promises for three years and still sees problems on the ground with consumers. "That's why we need an agreement that's enforceable and that we don't have just promises," says Cooper. Attorneys general want an end to false affidavits and "robosigning." They want banks to do more loan modifications and more negotiation with homeowners before foreclosure - even going so far as to reduce the amount of principal owed on a mortgage. Banks have balked at that demand, but Cooper says it was discussed in yesterday's meeting. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Ally Financial, Citibank and JP Morgan Chase were all there, but Cooper won't identify the specific people each bank sent to the meeting. "We have very high level representation from all of the banks; they are treating this very seriously," says Cooper. "I'm encouraged, but we have a ways to go." Cooper says the group did not talk about the size of a proposed settlement in their first meeting yesterday. Nor would he say how much he thinks the banks should be required to pay. "I'm not gonna get into that because we're not gonna talk about that publicly," says Cooper. "But clearly there has to be a significant amount of money and it has to be put in the right place in order to make sure we not only help homeowners but try to stabilize the housing market." Government officials have said the settlement could be more than $20 billion. Cooper says the negotiations must make significant progress within the next several weeks to keep the dispute from landing in court.