Schneiderman, reassuring the liberal skeptics, says a settlement with banks is just a 'down payment'
5:33 pm Feb. 9, 2012
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is selling the new $26 billion mortgage settlement announced this morning as a "down payment" on the relief owed to homeowners caught up in the mortgage crisis.
On a conference call this afternoon, Schneiderman stressed that the settlement announced today with Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial did not preclude his broader investigations—including a suit launched last week against the mortgage-servicer MERS—and that the resources provided by the five biggest banks as part of the settlement will help provide important principal reductions and necessary legal services to help people stay in their homes.
"We narrowed the releases, the banks are getting very limited immunity, and this is a first step, a down payment, towards the broader relief and the much broader principal reduction that we'll be seeking in the course of our joint investigation," Schneiderman said.
The settlement comes after months of fitful negotiations, during which Schneiderman became a hero to liberal groups for objecting to a proposed deal that he claimed was too generous to the country's largest banks. It also comes two weeks after Schneiderman was appointed by President Obama to co-chair a broader investigation, in concert with federal authorities, leading to some concern among those same liberal groups that Schneiderman might become more less inclined to continue his pursuit of the banks.
For the most part, those who have rallied behind Schneiderman seemed to share his cautious optimism about the deal.
"Today's deal is far from perfect, but because of the work of a few brave state attorneys general, and the millions of MoveOn members and other progressives who backed them up, it keeps the big banks accountable for most of their worst abuses," said MoveOn executive director Justin Ruben in a statement, adding that the group would continue to monitor Schneiderman's investigation.
"The settlement announced today isn’t perfect," said Dan Cantor of the Working Families Party, which endorsed Schneiderman for attorney general, in a statement. "But it’s an important step for people who want to hold Wall Street accountable for their reckless and self-serving behavior, because it allows the crucial federal investigation being led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to continue to move forward unimpeded."
Schneiderman's office also emailed a few dozen quotes that mostly echoed the same sentiment.
The view wasn't universal.
On the liberal website Firedoglake, David Dayen doubted whether the settlement would amount to any meaningful relief for homeowners.
In an interview with the Washington Post's Greg Sargent, Schneiderman did his best to allay the liberal concerns about Obama's intentions.
“Sometimes people on the left have to take yes for an answer," Schneiderman said.