New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman could have brought much-needed clarity to the nationwide foreclosure settlement talks yesterday — but instead left the year-plus-long matter a lot muddier.
Minutes before a much-anticipated 6 p.m. talk with the media — where he could have announced he was joining more than 40 other attorneys general in supporting the $25 billion deal — Schneiderman canceled.
No explanation was given to the reporters waiting on the line for the teleconference to begin. Calls to the AG’s office were not returned.
Schneiderman is among the most outspoken critics of the proposed plan, which will bring roughly $20 billion in mortgage modifications, a few billion in penalties and $2,000 payments to thousands who were improperly kicked out of their homes.
New York’s lawyer, among a handful opposed to the deal, was holding out from signing the proposed settlement because he wanted to protect his right to sue banks over their abuse of MERS, an electronic database used to track mortgages and liens.
He sued three banks over MERS last week.
The Obama administration was pressuring Schneiderman and the other holdout AGs — from California, Massachusetts, Delaware and Nevada — to sign the pact before a Feb. 6 deadline.
The pressure continued throughout yesterday and it was not known if Schneiderman used the conference call — organized at 2 p.m. — and the media as a chip in his white-knuckle talks with Washington.
Federal officials said Monday they had corralled more than 40 states to jump on board the deal, which would wrangle a $25 billion payout from five large banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo.
The exact reasons for the cancellation of Schneiderman’s scheduled call yesterday aren’t yet clear, but sources speculate that he may be getting closer to striking a compromise with the negotiations that are being led by Iowa AG Tom Miller.
At this point, the Obama administration, which has been pressuring both sides to come to terms, is hoping to be able to make an announcement of a deal by the end of the week.
But it’s unclear how many states will opt to be party to the nationwide accord.
While more than 40 states have signed the agreement, some of the biggest — California, New York and Florida — are still voicing concerns even as the deal is meant to be wrapped.
Schneiderman’s most recent move marks an on-again, off-again negotiation that has lasted for more than a year and has been described as more difficult than herding cats.
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Schneiderman, MERS