Beau Biden’s impact on post-crisis mortgage banking

 (Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

(Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

As people mourn the loss of former Attorney General Beau Biden, many reflect on his great accomplishments.

This time last year, Beau Biden played a significant role in securing nearly $2 million for Delaware homeowners in a state-federal settlement with a well-known mortgage lender.

The case was against SunTrust and addressed mortgage originations, servicing, and foreclosure abuses. As a result protections were expanded for military personnel under the federal Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) which included new procedures for reviewing loan modification applications and rules restricting foreclosures for those applying for a loan modification.

Department of Justice Investor Protection Director Owen Lefkon worked closely with Biden on a number of matters regarding mortgage protection and shared what it was like working with Biden to save homeowners facing the mortgage crunch. “Beau was not just passionate, but fierce, in ensuring that those who were voiceless had someone to speak for them. Working with him on mortgage issues and the fallout from the financial crisis was a lesson in leadership and dedication,” Lefkon said.

According to Lefkon, in addition to the over $200 million he returned to Delaware throughout the financial crisis, one of Beau’s signature achievements was the mandatory mortgage mediation program created after Beau heard one too many stories from homeowners stuck in what he referred to as 1-800-HELL. Today, that program is still being administered out of the Attorney General’s Office. In fact, Lefkon said it has helped many Delawareans over the past years.

“With more than just passion, Beau was a champion for people who couldn’t navigate the maze, people who did not otherwise have a voice. He understood the impact of the underlying bad conduct on individual people in a way that made it very personal for him. I saw him channel that ferocity into negotiations with some of the largest banks in the world,” added Lefkon who also wears the hat of Deputy Attorney General.

Although Biden didn’t seek a third term as Attorney General, Lefkon contemplated whether or not Biden seemed satisfied with his accomplishments in the mortgage area, “Yes and no. Certainly he felt that some measure of accountability was achieved through the efforts of states like Delaware, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and others to ensure that homeowners received better treatment at the hands of the mortgage banks.” Lefkon also stated that Biden felt there was significant work left to be done.

The attorney general’s office didn’t stop after the national mortgage settlement was concluded; instead shifting focus on mortgage backed securities and the rating agencies. Lefkon said Biden continued to want to hold the financial institutions accountable for the misconduct that contributed to the financial crisis, as well as to help homeowners and communities affected by the crisis.

“Beau’s leadership asked a lot, because he held himself and those he led to very high standards. As his staff, we gave a lot, because of the man he was. The passion that drove him infected those, like me, who worked for him. It is my honor to have done so.”

 

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