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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

McCollum sues Countrywide mortgage

Attorney General Bill McCollum has filed a lawsuit against Countrywide Financial, one of the nation's largest mortgage companies, for allegedly offering loans to people who could not afford them and then charging misleading rates and penalties.

The company, which is being acquired by Bank of America, could face up to $10,000 for each infraction under the unfair and deceptive trade practice law. It is possible homeowners could get some relief should the case go Florida's way.

"It's unthinkable that a company would try to take advantage of someone's dream of homeownership," McCollum said in a statement this morning. The Attorney General’s Office received more than 150 complaints about Countrywide, prompting a subpoena in February and ultimately leading to the lawsuit.

Illinois and California sued Countrywide last week, accusing the company of persuading homeowners to apply for risky mortgages far beyond their means.

During a news conference this morning, McCollum was unsure how many people are affected but said the number of complaints suggest a large pool.

"Countrywide had a large portfolio and so while we might not have everybody complaining, the reality is that everybody they touched and made statements to that were not accurate or were misleading are affected by this," McCollum said.

Asked why state regulators had not intervened while the alleged  practices were ongoing, McCollum said, "Our role over in the Attorney General's Office is not to regulate .. you'll have to ask those regulators. What we're about here today and what our job in the Attorney General's office with consumer protection is to go after what we see and what we get in front of us."

McCollum said he is open to discussing a settlement with Bank of America.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 10:26am]


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