Monday, June 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Bank of America fine isn't enough

It should feel better when corporate giants agree to billion-dollar settlements to atone for misdeeds that contributed to the 2008 meltdown of the financial markets. But even as Bank of America signed off on paying a record fine of $16.65 billion for its role in the economic collapse, primarily due to the shoddy mortgage practices of Countrywide and Merrill Lynch, the megabank is getting off too easily. The pain the corporation and its shareholders will feel won't nearly compensate for the pain inflicted on the economy and millions of homeowners. At least this time the U.S. Justice Department is leaving the door open to pursuing cases against individual bank officers.

The settlement Bank of America signed last week won't cost the bank as much as it sounds, experts say, because $7 billion of the settlement is in "soft costs" of reducing borrowers' principal. Just $9.65 billion will be in cash. An estimated $1 billion of the settlement is expected to flow to Florida in the form of first and second mortgage principal reduction for 17,000 Floridians. Other money is expected to flow to help communities deal with blight or shore up affordable rental housing stock.

Let's hope this time around Bank of America does a better job than it and four other banks did after signing the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement to provide $25 billion in homeowner assistance. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi had to threaten legal action in 2013 after her investigators found Bank of America was unduly complicating the loan modification process when homeowners needed relief immediately. The Attorney General's Office will need to play the same watchdog role this time around.

But last week's announcement of the settlement, the third such deal with a major bank, underscored once again how brazen some in the financial industry were in creating the subprime lending crisis. In some cases, Bank of America employees repeatedly altered loan applications dozens of times to "trick" the Federal Housing Administration to insure mortgages. As early as 2005, Countrywide founder Angelo Mozilo suggested his company's pay option loans — which reset interest rates after a few years — weren't performing. Yet for years, his company continued to originate such loans and then sell them to Wall Street.

Now federal officials are reported to be considering a civil case against Mozilo after dropping an earlier criminal investigation. In 2011, Mozilo — with the help of Bank of America — agreed to pay $67.5 million to settle fraud allegations before the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. But by one estimate, Mozilo earned $521.5 million between 2000 and 2008, when he left Countrywide.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder needs to follow that investigation, and others, wherever they may lead. Banks finally may be paying up, but their officers also should be punished individually for allowing such recklessness. They should not be allowed to walk away from misdeeds that ultimately led millions to lose their homes.

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Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

The Trump administration just can’t stop sabotaging Americans’ access to health care. Instead of giving up after it failed to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it continues to quietly undermine the law in ways that would reduce acc...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18