Nightly News | December 01, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now to the foreclosure crisis. The attorney general of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts announced today she is suing five of this nation's largest banks , accusing them of unlawful, deceptive practices that have harmed borrowers and led people to being thrown out of their homes illegally. And she says she is going to make the banks pay. We get the story from our senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers .
LISA MYERS reporting: Today, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley accused five big banks of making the foreclosure crisis worse, deceiving homeowners about loan modifications, unfair and deceptive foreclosure practices, and pervasive use of fraudulent documents, including robo-signing to speed foreclosures.
Ms. MARTHA COAKLEY (Massachusetts Attorney General): This suit seeks accountability against the banks for both cutting corners and also rushing to unnecessarily foreclose homeowners without following the rule of law .
MYERS: Coakley 's lawsuit comes on the heels of complaints by county property records officials, including John O'Brien of Salem . He accuses the banks of turning his office into a crime scene. So why do you call it a crime scene?
Mr. JOHN O'BRIEN (Register of Deeds, Essex County, Massachusetts): Because this registry has been infected with fraudulent documents.
MYERS: His office identified 26,000 property records and foreclosure filings signed by so-called robo-signers. One involved Carol Multon , who's lived in this home all her life but lost her job and fell behind on her mortgage.
Ms. CAROL MULTON: Hi, Lisa Myers .
MYERS: The day we visited, she'd just received a notice. What did it say?
Ms. MULTON: It said that the house was going to be auctioned off.
MYERS: O'Brien 's office says Carol 's foreclosure is based on inaccurate, fabricated documents. Her servicer disputes that. With two million home owners now facing foreclosure, the Obama administration and state attorneys general have been trying for a year to negotiate a settlement in which banks would pay billions to help wronged home owners in return for protection against lawsuits. Coakley said she's tired of waiting.
Ms. COAKLEY: Even if the banks think they are too big to fail , we believe that they're not too big to have to follow the law.
MYERS: The CEO of one of the banks said he's disappointed by the lawsuit and still hopes a settlement can be reached. Lisa Myers , NBC News, Washington.