Opposition Filed to BofAs Appeal to Dismiss 127 Billion Mortgage Fraud Verdict

first_img in Daily Dose, Featured, Government, News July 23, 2015 420 Views Opposition Filed to BofA’s Appeal to Dismiss $1.27 Billion Mortgage Fraud Verdict The U.S. government has filed an opposition to Bank of America’s appeal to dismiss a $1.27 billion penalty in a mortgage fraud case, according to media reports.Bank of America was ordered to pay a $1.27 billion civil penalty by Judge Jed Rakoff of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York in July 2014 as a result of the bank’s alleged role in selling toxic mortgage-backed securities to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before the crisis. The U.S. Department of Justice sued Bank of America in August 2013, accusing the bank’s Countrywide division of misrepresenting the mortgage-backed securities it sold to the GSEs through a program known as the High Speed Swim Lane (HSSL, commonly known as “Hustle”).The government said the Hustle program emphasized speed over quality of the loans sold, and staff members were rewarded according to sales volume. In October 2013, a jury found Countrywide liable for selling toxic MBS to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under the Hustle program. Bank of America has fought to have the verdict and the penalty dismissed, claiming not only that the Hustle program ended prior the bank’s 2008 acquisition of Countrywide, but that the government’s accusations in the case amount only to breach of contract and not fraud.In February, Rakoff denied the bank’s request to overturn the verdict and the request for a new trial. In April, Bank of America asked court to either reverse the judgment in the Hustle case or vacate the judgment and remand the case. If it is remanded, the bank asked Rakoff be removed from the case based on alleged partial public statements he made while the case was pending. When filing the appeal in April, Bank of America claimed that “the trial itself was riddled with errors at both the liability and penalty phases.” The bank also claims the federal law under which the government made the claim comes with a penalty of no more than $1.1 million.In Wednesday’s filing, the government reaffirmed its assertion that Countrywide committed fraud by knowingly selling poor-quality mortgage-backed securities to the GSEs and misrepresenting the quality of those securities sold.Also charged in the case was former Countywide executive Rebecca Mairone, who was accused by the government of pushing the Hustle program against evidence that the loans being made were low-quality. Mairone was found liable by the jury and ordered to pay $1 million. She is appealing the decision; her attorneys contend that there was “insufficient evidence” for the jury to conclude that she knew about the low quality of the loans.The government’s lawsuit against Bank of America was a whistleblower suit originated from former Countrywide executive Edward O’Donnell, who is collecting $57 million for filing the whistleblower suit.In a separate case, Bank of America agreed to a record $16.65 billion settlement with the Department of Justice in August 2014 over the packaging and selling of toxic residential mortgage-backed securities before the crisis.center_img Bank of America Mortgage Fraud U.S. government 2015-07-23 Staff Writer Sharelast_img read more

Orchestras Face Connection Between Diversity and Relevance

first_imgShare27TweetShare25Email52 SharesJune 8, 2016; Baltimore SunThe headline for an article in last week’s Baltimore Sun says it all: “In Baltimore, the largely white orchestra world talks diversity.” The conference theme for the 2016 League of American Orchestras was “The Richness of Difference.” This annual conference was held last week in Baltimore, a majority African-American city, with the conference drawing a mostly white audience. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) hosted the event, and invited the keynotes. Earl Lewis, the president of the Andrew Mellon Foundation and an African American history scholar, was the opening speaker, sharing lessons learned from Mellon’s initiatives to diversity the profession of college professors.One specific issue that was addressed was the slow pace of change regarding the ethnic breakdown of orchestra musicians. Currently, less than two percent of musicians in League orchestras are African American, and 85 percent are white, Additional conference topics included creating diverse boards of directors and diversifying audiences. The focus on diversity in the arts is a recurring theme, which NPQ has covered here and here, among several other articles.The keynote speaker for the closing session was DeRay McKesson, an activist leader connected to the Black Lives Matter movement. He is engaged in issues of law enforcement and, most notably, is not an orchestra person. McKesson spoke as part of a panel that discussed efforts to increase diversity and inclusion, which was paired with a follow-up panel of orchestral leaders. According to McKesson, “It’s important that we talk about diversity in all communities, and an orchestra is part of the larger community.” The BSO has tried new ideas to grow diversity and become more accessible. One is OrchKids, a music education program that collaborates with Baltimore city schools. The goal is to develop a passion for orchestral music at a young age, so that the musicians develop the skills needed to win the blind auditions for the orchestras. After the riots last summer in Baltimore, the BSO also provided a free concert outside the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and a “peace concert” at Mount Lebanon Baptist Church, sited in an area near to where the unrest started.Underscoring the universality of this orchestral focus on diversity, several orchestras across the country are also trying different initiatives. The Houston Symphony has one season under its belt of sending “community embedded musicians” into local neighborhoods. The “embeds” are of diverse ethnic racial backgrounds and spend three-quarters of their time providing educational leadership to children and one-quarter as performers in the orchestra. Anne Parsons, the Detroit Symphony CEO, says, “We do a neighborhood series with open seating and low ticket prices in churches, schools and synagogues. That way you can make sure you diversity your public, and not just by race.”The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has an African American Fellowship Program, which works with musicians under 30 years old. Currently, there are former fellows who are now on the roster, having successfully passed the traditional audition process of performing behind a curtain.What results from such conferences and efforts to change the culture of the orchestra world? According to Parsons, her hope is that people leave the conference and “begin to change behavior and ideas.” It may take more than hope; it may take many more half-empty performance halls and cities denying funding to the orchestras before there is large-scale change. The organizers of the conference hope not.—Jeanne AllenShare27TweetShare25Email52 Shareslast_img read more