By Bill Parry
Fresh off his record $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman spoke to a packed Little Theater at LaGuardia Community College Monday night.
The town hall event, called the Western Queens Community Forum, was initially overshadowed by talk of the settlement, the largest ever levied against a financial institution. “The president appointed me to head the group so I rolled up my shirt sleeves and got to work,” Schneiderman said.
The settlement requires the mortgage giant to pay $9 billion and provide another $4 billion in consumer relief to homeowners across the country who are at risk of foreclosure, a move that resounds in southeastern Queens that was the epicenter of the failed mortgage catastrophe staring in 2008. A multi-state and federal task group was formed by the Justice Department to investigate banks and financial institutions role in the mortgage-backed securities crisis.
As part of the settlement, JPMorgan acknowledged it had misled investors by marketing mortgage-backed securities that the company’s employees knew did not comply with underwriting guidelines.
New York State will receive more than $1 billion from the settlement and it will be used to aid homeowners grappling with the threat of foreclosure.
“When I came into office, 340,000 homeowners faced foreclosure. Half of them never even spoke with an attorney,” Schneiderman said. “Because of this settlement, no one in the state will face the banks alone without an attorney or a counselor.”
The attorney general changed the subject, saying, “This is not about me, this is about my office and how easy it is to use since we brought in management professionals for the first time. It’s much more efficient now.”
This was Schneiderman’s fifth town hall-style meeting in the last six months, but the first in New York City. Schneiderman brought his staff and bureau chiefs to explain their jobs and answer questions during a question-and-answer segment with the audience. The wide-ranging topics included the Affordable Care Act, fraud connected to rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy and stop-and-frisk.
Health Care Bureau Chief Lisa Landau said, “We’re keeping an eye out for fraud, people who say they can help you with the process.”
She pointed out that New York was one of the few states with its own website and that 77,000 people have gotten coverage already.
Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke, responding to a question about stop-and-frisk, said, “We took a look at what happens to the 6 percent that get arrested. Half result in no convictions and one in four arrested get dismissed before arraignment.”
Schneiderman handled questions on gun control himself. His office crafted the Model Gun Show Procedures, designed to close the loopholes at gun shows in New York.
While the gun lobby is well-organized, the attorney general said “you just have to pry reasonable people away from the extremists. I have a good relationship with the other side. Some of them get excited because they’ve never seen a liberal. Some even want to touch me.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.