States that will agree to settle with major U.S. banks over faulty foreclosure practices must agree by the deadline today. “Most states don’t have the resources to go it alone and fight the banks in court,” said James Tierney, director of Columbia Law School’s National State Attorneys General Program. “How long does it take and how much better?” Tierney said of a state pursuing its own deal. “Is it so much better that it warrants the cost and delay?” The settlement agreement comes sixteen months after all 50 states began investigations into banking practices.
A year after all 50 states announced investigations into potential violations of state laws by lenders using alleged fraudulent tactics in the process of foreclosing homes, Program Director James E. Tierney discussed the states' lack of progress in settling the case. "Attorneys general have worked long and hard together to pull together an agreement and may not make it," said Tierney. "But their disagreements have been honest ones, and they have certainly come closer than any other groups of elected officials in actually doing something to enforce laws and help consumers."
Program Director James E. Tierney commented on the relationship between governors and state attorneys general in a profile of New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who was elected in November 2010. “Every governor wants to be attorney general, especially the ones who used to be attorney general,” Tierney said. “It’s just the way it is.” Schneiderman succeeded Andrew Cuomo as attorney general; Cuomo was elected governor in the same election.
Program Director James Tierney was featured in an article on the fifty-state coalition investigating foreclosure practices by major lenders. “An attorney general will always have a responsibility to deal with their own state laws and statutes that they think might be violated,” said Tierney. “If the target of the investigation may have done the same thing in several states, then it becomes cost effective and more efficient to work with colleagues in several states.”
Jim Tierney offered his perspective on state regulation of home foreclosure proceedings after attorneys general from all 50 states announced an investigation into allegations of fraud against major lenders.
Director Tierney was quoted on Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray and others' efforts to file suit against banks that caused the financial crisis: “Is state action as effective as a federal regulator going after these companies? Absolutely not. But when regulators are too worried about giving offense, there’s no reason an enterprising attorney general can’t go in there.”
Program Director James E. Tierney, along with legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, was featured on a panel on the CNN show discussing the controversy surrounding the actions of Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell, who has been accused of authoring inappropriate blog posts about the University of Michigan student body president, among other improper actions.
Shirvell has taken a leave of absence from the Michigan Attorney General's office. Attorney General Mike Cox has stated that he will seek a disciplinary hearing when Shirvell returns.
Video of Tierney's appearance is available online:
In a featured profile of the career of longtime Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is currently running for U.S. Senate, Program Director James Tierney discussed the growing role of state AGs during Blumenthal's tenure in such prominent areas as the tobacco industry litigation in the 1990s. "Attorneys general are by nature very aggressive personalities," said Tierney. "Some are activists on the conservative side. [Blumenthal] is an activist on the liberal side. He's not about keeping the seat warm."
Two studies, including one conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Center for Community Capital and sponsored by the National State Attorneys General Program, have found that states with stronger anti-predatory lending laws have demonstrated lower risk of foreclosure during the subprime mortgage crisis. "This report proves that that vigorous state consumer protection laws make a positive difference for consumers throughout the country," said Program Director James Tierney. "The federal government must respect that clear fact." Related: Program report on UNC study findings
The Vermont Superior Court has found that the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company deceived consumers in advertisements for Eclipse cigarettes. The Eclipse product was claimed to have been less likely to cause cancer than "traditional" cigarettes. Newly confirmed Federal Trade Commissioner and past Program associate Julie Brill helped to conduct the trial. Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, who oversaw the case against Reynolds, is a member of the Program's advisory board.
Director James E. Tierney discussed the ongoing investigation of New York Governor David Paterson by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo over Paterson's alleged illegal contact with a woman who accused a member of the governor's staff of abuse, among other improper actions. Some have questioned whether Cuomo, who is considered likely to run for governor, will be able to carry out his investigation in an impartial fashion. "We live in times of extraordinary cynicism," said Tierney on the subject of Cuomo's fairness in investigating Paterson. "It's natural for citizens to view the political system with cynicism, but I see nothing at all in this case which indicates anything but the attorney general is proceeding in an absolutely appropriate manner."