Friday, January 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: End mortgage relief runaround

Attorney generals in Florida and New York are taking dramatically different approaches toward two giant banks that have reneged on their promises to provide mortgage relief to homeowners. Florida's Pam Bondi opted for a broad new agreement with Bank of America and Wells Fargo. New York's Eric Schneiderman demanded specific action from both banks, and when Wells Fargo refused he sued. Time will tell which approach will succeed.

Bondi and Schneiderman are following up on last year's $25 billion settlement among five major banks, the federal government and 49 states over the rampant use of shortcuts to foreclose on homeowners that included "robo-signing" and falsifying court documents. Wells Fargo and Bank of America signed the agreement but have not fully followed through on establishing procedures for loan modifications for homeowners. Bondi's office has received hundreds of complaints, as have New York and other states.

Bondi, who is on the settlement's monitoring committee, recently announced a new understanding with both banks to end the runaround for homeowners. It reiterates many of the requirements of the original settlement. Borrowers must have an appropriately trained contact at the bank and their loan modification handled in a timely way.

Under the deal, banks must add personnel for better customer service and to make sure foreclosure attorneys are fully aware of each borrower's case history. This should prevent dual-tracking, where bank attorneys move a foreclosure forward while a modification is being processed. That has remained a serious problem even though it was barred by the initial settlement.

Schneiderman also reached an agreement with Bank of America. It spells out in more detail what the banks must do to improve borrower treatment and includes intensive oversight by his office. He brought an enforcement action against Wells Fargo after it refused to sign.

Bondi argues that her approach will bring financial assistance to homeowners more quickly and that a lawsuit is always an option later. But the banks have had a year to comply with the initial servicing standards and have failed. Schneiderman's hardball tactics might be a reasonable response to the bad faith the banks have exhibited. Within the next few months it should be clear which approach is the right one.

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Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18