Sunday, March 13, 2011

BofA offers to help fix mortgages…Only if you’re a state legislator

Written by Biloxi

The banks are resisting to help struggling homeowners in the foreclosure crisis, yet Bank of America gives special perks to state legislators with a special hotline and email address. As Abigail Field of Daily Finance reports, Netra Halperin, who works for a Hawaii legislator, told Ms. Field of her recollection of the meeting in which Bank of America's workers offered a state legislator special access to its mortgage department:

On about 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, March, Marvin Dang, Attorney for Hawaii Financial Services Association and David Swartley, Senior V.P., Regional Manager, Pacific Northwest, State and Local Government Relations, Bank of America, walked into our office in the capitol.

Swartley: "Bank of America is offering a special hot line to the Bank President for legislators, their staff, their families and constituents who need help with their Bank of America mortgages. It is the same number that we give to congresspeople and their families and aides. The line goes directly to the president's office, though they wouldn't be speaking directly with the president."

Halperin: "I also work for an attorney, James Fosbinder, who defends homeowners from mortgage foreclosure. Can I also give our clients this hot line number?

Swartley: "No, it is only for legislators and their staff, and family -- and constituents."

Halperin "Is that ethical?"

Swartley: "I think it's transparent. It is what it is."

Dang: "Let me explain it to you this way: I used to be a legislator. Constituents would call me about things like potholes. Even though it wasn't my responsibility I would send them to someone who could help them. People only call legislators if their problem is very serious. Our goal is to help legislators, to take the heat from constituents off of them."

And why is Bank of America is making a sweet heart deals with state legislators?

Halperin later told me that Swartley claimed that he was visiting Hawaii because of a proposed law, which she assumed was HB894, a bill that would place a five-month moratorium on non-judicial foreclosures. She gave me a copy of the letter that BofA gave her with its special phone number, a copy of the the letter announcing the lobbying visit, and later told me that Representative Robert Herkes, Chair of Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, told the House that BoA spoke to all 76 of Hawaii's state legislators.

Sounds like Bank of America use the same replica of former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozillo's tactics. Do you remember Mozillo's "Friends of Mozillo's VIP program" scandal where politicians and federal agency employees allegedly received favorable mortgage rates?

The best part of Abigail Field's article is how she closes it out:

“I couldn’t agree more. With that in mind, here’s the special hot line number and e-mail address that the company reserved for legislators (and specifically requested I not publish): 888-655-7622,”

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