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Attorney General sues Countrywide

Thursday, Jun 26, 2008

[Posted by Kevin Fanning]

* Lisa Madigan has been getting a lot of press over a new lawsuit against Countrywide Financial. The suit shows how Illinois residents have suffered, and has attracted national attention as an overall critique of companies who have helped to spur the mortgage crisis:

The lawsuit offers a comprehensive look at how the company allegedly ripped off homeowners by pushing them into loans they couldn’t afford while not telling them what they were getting into.

One Countrywide customer in Illinois, a 64-year-old widow on a fixed income, was paying about $300 a month on her mortgage. After Countrywide refinanced her loan, her payments shot up to $800 a month, the lawsuit says.

Nor was Countrywide straightforward about loan terms, the lawsuit alleges. Details were in tiny type, and consumers who actually read footnotes were at times referred to footnotes of footnotes.

Madigan says Countrywide should pay back borrowers who lost their homes, and she’s also asking a court for a temporary stay on new foreclosures.

Bethany Jager has more

The Chicago area had the most subprime loans of any metropolitan area in the country, according to a 2006 study by the Chicago Reporter, an investigative magazine. And Countrywide held more of those loans than any other lender. The Chicago area also has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country.

The attorney general also says her office has received more than 200 complaints about the company since 2005.

In early 2007, the company issued nearly $8 billion in risky subprime loans, which generally are given to borrowers with poorer credit histories and lower incomes than those given standard loans.

* You can view the Attorney General’s complaint here.

Whatever the results of the suit are, I’m sure that Madigan will continue to receive accolades from angry Illinoisans for trying to hold companies accountable for the mortgage mess.

- Posted by Kevin Fanning        

  1. - Ghost - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 11:43 am:

    I bet you see more States either sign on to this lawsuit or files suits of their own.
    I bet a pizza from Lou Malnati’s that someone will file a private class action case against countrywide and possibly some other lenders as well.

  2. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 12:01 pm:

    ===I’m sure that Madigan will continue to receive accolades from angry Illinoisans for trying to hold companies accountable for the mortgage mess.===

    I’m sure you’re right, but the Tribune editorial board named Countrywide a two-time winner today. You have to read down in the Trib’s screed to see a brief bit on Madigan’s suit, without any real context.

  3. - wordslinger - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 12:29 pm:

    What a made-to-order issue for a fighting young progressive attorney general and working mom.

    She looked like a champ on TV. I’m losing all objectivity on her as a candidate. She’s a winner and should go for the big prize.

  4. - Pat Collins - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 12:45 pm:

    Too bad she didn’t actually take action WHEN they were doing it.

    Since she was AG in that time period, why didn’t she act sooner?

  5. - DumberThanUThink - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 12:53 pm:

    Think how bad Blagoof feels. He gives grants to Ameriquest NumeroUno predator while the AG gets national ink going after Countrywide….nice compare and contrast there.
    Trib is just protecting what is left the advertising base…..would be funny to look into the “academic” who made the fuuny comment about 50 AGS RUNNIG FOR GOV…probably has a grant fron the Institute for Progressive Lending.

  6. - Kevin Fanning - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 12:54 pm:


  7. - Ghost - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 1:52 pm:

    Pat makes an excellent point, madigan should have stopped this before the evidence of the problem existed. Why did she fail to act when there was no proof of a problem.

    This process of investigating before filing complaints needs to stop. We need somone who acts without proof! Evidence is for the weak!

  8. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 1:53 pm:

    Pat does make a good point, but it’s a broader point for everyone. Nobody really stepped in at the height of these shenanigans. Madigan wasn’t alone in her failure to act.

    The entire system broke down, in every way. All that can be done now is to learn from the mistakes and stop it from happening again.

  9. - Ghost - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 2:02 pm:

    I disagree Rich, I think you should investigate complaints before acting.

    The feds took what, 12 years before they went after Ryan? If your looking into wrongdoing you don’t jump in with an attack before you have a chance to dig for evidence on the scope and breadth of wrongdoing.

  10. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 2:05 pm:

    Sure you should investigate first, but was she investigating Countrywide three years ago? Highly doubtful.

    Even so, back then she and her dad did push through an anti predatory lender bill that was gutted by Gov. Blagojevich.

  11. - Anon - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 2:28 pm:

    I see this as grandstanding. By making subprime loans and selling them in the secondary market, Countrywide may have been cheating the participants in the market, but there is simply no way they cheated the borrowers. The borrowers got their money on the terms that were disclosed.

  12. - Pat Collins - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 2:42 pm:

    Well, the system that broke down was “revealing risks to the secondary market”. That is, Countryside could not have made these loans if they could not have sold them off.

    GNMA’s are an excellent thing - the US market for mortgages works very well in making home affordable.

    BUT that assumes that the loans being packaged and sold are “roughly equal”. Loans made “the old fashioned way” and these “10 year, interest only” loans are NOT the same! The latter are really more like ” junk bond” versions of GMNA.

    Someone might still buy them, but at a greater demand for return, and likely fewer buyers.

    As for the AG, well, if you want to be outstanding, you need to do something that is outstanding.

    Filing a “me too” suit after the damage is apparent to all doesn’t really qualify.

  13. - Greg - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 2:54 pm:

    What Madigan is proposing would penalize Bank of America shareholders and mortgage bond owners, and that’s about it. Kind of a weird solution.

    As to the system’s breakdown, that’s mostly a housing bubble issue. I wish we could prevent such a thing, but I doubt our ability to.

  14. - Hickory - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 3:26 pm:

    Tell me more about the consumer. Could they not read or do the math. It tells you what makes up a large group in our society. If we did a better job of educating people the AG would not need to look for them.

  15. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 3:29 pm:

    ===If we did a better job of educating people the AG would not need to look for them.===

    That’s partly true, but some of these high-pressure tactics clearly crossed the line.

  16. - ChampaignDweller - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 4:03 pm:

    Well, at least she’s trying to do something to help consumers and has no personal interest in the deal, unlike Senator Dodd and others in the US senate.

  17. - Judgment Day Is On The Way - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 4:28 pm:

    Ghost, go back to 2004/2005 and look hard at Countrywide. There were a number of financial analysts and others back then who were looking at Angelo’s outsized compensation package, Countrywide’s mortgage broker dealings, and many of their standard mortgage terms, and they were all calling for Angelo’s (and his wife’s) head over problems they were sure would be coming eventually.

    Well, these folks got it right, while the rest of us just “got it”. Truth is, the problems were there to see back in 2004/2005, just too many players didn’t want to see them. But now that it’s blindly obvious to all, it’s time to pile on.

    Sorry, no glory here for Lisa.

  18. - Emily Booth - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 8:48 pm:

    The state of California announced their lawsuit against Countryside on the same day as Lisa Madigan’s announcement.

  19. - FruitOfMyLabor - Tuesday, Jul 1, 08 @ 2:16 am:

    Bottom line: In too many cases, complex loan products were “sold” to the uninformed masses. Allowing any “warm body” to qualify for a mortgage is ultimately a business decision; but handing a borrower a time-bomb, then lighting the fuse, a completely different “unethical story”!

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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