Three Cabinet Secretaries, Same Mission
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Attorney General Eric Holder, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz appeared together earlier today to announce a new effort to coordinate federal and state responses to loan scams -- a growing problem amid the nation's housing woes.
It's rare to see cabinet secretaries and government agency heads appear together publicly without the president or vice president, especially when announcing multi-agency efforts. Recently secretaries are more likely to be seen with President Obama during policy announcements, or with Vice President Biden making announcements related to economic recovery plans. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar seem to appear most frequently together, since the work of their departments often complement or overlap each other.
"Just as this administration intensifies our efforts to help American homeowners, those who would seek to prey on the most vulnerable are intensifying their tactics as well," Geithner said at a news briefing at Treasury headquarters today. His department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network will issue an advisory to help lenders spot loan modification scams and streamline and coordinate law enforcement efforts, notes The Post's Renae Merle.
Holder, speaking directly to what he described as "those individuals and companies whose illegal and repulsive practices have harmed far too many Americans," said that "If you discriminate against borrowers or prey on vulnerable homeowners with fraudulent mortgage schemes, we will find you, and we will punish you."
HUD will start distributing literature about loan modification fraud to its field offices and all of its state and city housing partners, according to Donovan.
"We have families on the edge of foreclosure that are being offered things that are too good to be true, and we will take every measure we can to educate and protect consumers and homeowners, bring these scams to light, and work to prevent con artists from exploiting the housing crisis," he said.
Meanwhile, the FTC has filed five new cases involving loan modification or foreclosure scams. It will join with government and private groups to start a new consumer education campaign, according to Leibowitz.
"We're enforcing the law against these scam artists who are deceiving consumers while they're down; we're putting others on notice that unless they change their ways, they're next; and we're working with other government agencies, non-profits, and mortgage servicers to reach out to our neighbors in distress with the details of how and where to get help," according to Leibowitz.
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