California attorney general explains her leaving mortgage settlement talks

By Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/04/2011 03:56:03 PM PDT

California Attorney General Kamala Harris held a conference call today to explain her decision to leave national settlement talks with lenders over potentially illegal mortgage and foreclosure practices.

In the call, Harris said the state is experiencing a renewed wave of foreclosures and that the dollar figures being discussed in negotiations would not be sufficient to provide relief to Californians at risk of foreclosure.

Harris first announced her withdrawal from settlement talks on Friday. Her leaving clears the way for California to press its own investigation of lending and foreclosure practices, which she said may lead to civil or even criminal filings against lenders.

“This action is about a law enforcement action, with the goal of bringing the best and broadest relief we can bring,” she said.

Settlement talks involving all 50 states were intended to resolve claims of poor mortgage and foreclosure practices, including document fraud known as “robo-signing” – approving documents in foreclosures without actually reading them.

Lenders involved in the talks include Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co.

Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase representatives said their banks have no comment on Harris’ withdrawal from settlement talks.

Wells Fargo spokeswoman Vickee J. Adams did not comment specifically on Harris’ actions or remarks, but said Wells Fargo has agreed to some 700,000 loan modifications nationwide since 2009.

She also pointed to the bank’s participation in several mortgage workshops, including an event to be held later this month in Oceanside, as evidence of Wells Fargo’s willingness to help troubled homeowners avoid foreclosure.

“We’re going to continue to work with all parties, most importantly our customers,” Adams said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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