Washington, D.C. – September 17, 2009 – (RealEstateRama) — Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard met this morning with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, other senior Obama Administration officials and 11 other state Attorneys General to coordinate proactive strategies and strengthen efforts to fight consumer fraud in the housing markets.
The meeting also included Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Jon Leibowitz and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Director Jim Freis.
“Arizona is at the epicenter of the nation’s mortgage crisis. Homeowners unable to get clear answers from their lenders are looking for help and falling victim to fraud artists who charge high fees for empty promises,” Goddard said. “I am aggressively prosecuting those who take advantage of struggling families, and I appreciate that the Administration is listening to the recommendations of state Attorneys General to streamline loan modification programs to provide real relief.”
The Federal officials committed to state Attorneys General that they would work with states to take additional measures to curb abuse by coordinating information and resources across agencies to maximize targeting and efficiency in fraud investigations. This includes alerting financial institutions to emerging schemes, stepping up enforcement actions and educating consumers to help those in financial trouble avoid becoming victims of a loan modification or foreclosure rescue scam.
Illegal and predatory practices in the mortgage market are rampant in the wake of the recent financial crisis, including many fraudulent television ads that run on prominent networks promising simple solutions to complex financial problems. Federal and state officials discussed patterns of fraud in today’s meeting and best practices for addressing them early, before families suffer further financial harm.
When Goddard spoke with President Obama during his August visit to Arizona, he asked the president for improvements to the federal modification program, citing continued waves of foreclosures in Western states like Arizona. Goddard noted after the meeting that the participation of three Cabinet secretaries along with the chairman of the FTC demonstrates a strong expression of commitment by the Administration to seriously attack the problem of mortgage fraud in partnership with the states.
In July, Goddard led a delegation of six state Attorneys General in making recommendations to Geithner and Donovan for critical improvements in loan modification programs offered by mortgage lenders and servicers.
In the letter, Goddard cited the need to “streamline the process for eligible consumers to obtain modifications and to move consumers into sustainable mortgages.” It also said the “need for immediate change in the loan modification process is particularly acute at this time because a very large number of Payment Option ARMS in Arizona is scheduled to reset in the near future.”
According to Goddard, providing reasonable modifications to borrowers before they become delinquent is the most powerful tool available to stem the tide of foreclosures facing Arizona. Bringing foreclosure rates down, Goddard said, is critical for stabilizing Arizona’s housing market, restoring struggling neighborhoods and reviving Arizona’s economy.
State Attorneys General joining Goddard in today’s meeting were Dustin McDaniel, Arkansas; Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut; Lisa Madigan, Illinois; Tom Miller, Iowa; Doug Gansler, Maryland; Chris Koster, Missouri; Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada; Roy Cooper, North Carolina; Richard Cordray, Ohio (by phone); Patrick Lynch, Rhode Island; and Rob McKenna, Washington (by phone). Collectively, these offices have taken action on scores of fraud cases in the housing markets and opened hundreds of investigations.
Homeowners at risk of foreclosure are encouraged to download the Arizona Foreclosure Prevention Workbook. The Arizona Foreclosure Prevention Task Force has developed this workbook to guide families through different options and scenarios to prepare for meeting with lenders or certified counselors at a HUD-approved agency. The workbook and other foreclosure prevention resources are available to download for free from the Attorney General’s Web site, www.azag.gov .
For information on foreclosure assistance, Arizona homeowners also can call the Arizona Foreclosure Prevention Helpline at 1.877.448.1211