McCollum's Countrywide lawsuit decried as political play

Chris Rizo Jul. 7, 2008, 12:04am

Bill McCollum (R)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline)-Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum's recent lawsuit against Countrywide Financial Corp., accusing the mortgage lender of deceptive practices, has some drawn criticism.

The lawsuit has been characterized as a move by the Republican attorney general to capture headlines by suing the embattled sub-prime lender.

On Tuesday, McCollum said he was eager to reach a monetary settlement with Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America, which recently finalized its buyout of Countrywide.

"We now have a new cowboy in town owning Countrywide," McCollum said. "There is technically a deep pocket. They've acquired them, they assume their liabilities," he added.

Last year, there were 280,000 mortgage foreclosures in Florida last year -- more than twice as in 2006.

McCollum's 12-page lawsuit against Countrywide is mostly legalese with no examples cited of Floridians who were allegedly deceived by the Calabasas, Calif.-based company.

In his lawsuit, McCollum claims Countrywide allowed homebuyers to agree to terms the company knew could not be met. He also accused the company of not clearly disclosing the terms and rates of the agreements.

One political analyst said McCollum was seeking political cover by filing the lawsuit. Doing so undoubtedly boosted the attorney general's consumer protection bona fides. McCllum is not up for re-election until 2010.

"I have not seen this much voter anger or anti-incumbency feelings in 30 years of polling," Jim Kane, a Fort Lauderdale pollster, told the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel.

"I think every elected official in the country is looking for cover and trying to look like they are concerned about consumers," Kane added.

McCollum's lawsuit and day-after press conference were reported extensively by Florida media as well as by national outlets, including Legal Newsline, The Associated Press, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal, among others.

Attorneys general in California and Illinois late last month filed similar lawsuits against Countrywide.

But that might not assuage voters like Louella Palermo, a Walt Disney World employee from Orlando whose son had a Countrywide loan. She told the Orlando Sentinel she's ready to vote out every incumbent.

"Nobody seems willing to take on the issues until there's a crisis," Palermo said. "I'm disgusted. I'd like to vote every politician out."

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at

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