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A New Zombie Lumbers On: The Mortgage Settlement Negotiations

The kindest thing that can be said about the 50 state attorneys’ general negotiations over foreclosure abuses is that it is increasingly obvious that there will not be a deal. The leader of the effort, Iowa’s Tom Miller, has completely botched the effort. There was no way to have any negotiating leverage with intransigent banks in the absence of investigations. Miller has changed his story enough times on this and other fronts so as to have no credibility left. But whether there were no investigations (as other AGs maintain) or whether they did some (as Miller, contrary to a staffer’s remarks, now insists), they were clearly inadequate. We’ve found the rumor, that Miller was angling to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, credible. It would explain his unduly cozy relationship with Federal banking regulators, as well as his efforts to wrap up negotiations quickly, which reduced what little bargaining power he had (time pressure means a party that drags its feet can extract concessions). But like so many zombies that inhabit the financial landscape, the mortgage settlement negotiations refuse to die. They were unlikely to succeed, given that some of the attorneys general who joined late in the game were opposed to the entire concept. That means they signed up for the sole purpose of repudiating any deal later.

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