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Owens criticizes booting of NY attorney general from committee


WASHINGTON — Rep. William L. Owens is joining other New York lawmakers complaining about the ouster of New York’s attorney general from a multistate panel examining lending institutions’ foreclosure practices.

Twenty-one Democratic members of Congress from New York wrote to the commission’s chairman, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, complaining that New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman was removed from a national committee of state attorneys general negotiating with lenders for new mortgage practices following the financial meltdown of 2008.

Mr. Miller, a Democrat, ousted Mr. Schneiderman last week, saying he was trying to undermine the committee’s work. The lawmakers countered that Mr. Schneiderman was raising legitimate concerns.

“I think Schneiderman is doing the right thing,” Mr. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Among other issues, Mr. Schneiderman has opposed halting investigations into allegedly fraudulent bank practices as part of a negotiated deal and has said the deal should not free banks from lawsuits related to their mortgage practices.

Although some of the practices in question, such as “robo-filings” of foreclosure, don’t affect the north country heavily, they do have an impact on New York as a whole, Mr. Owens said.

The north country benefits from mainly hometown bank lending, he said, and banks are more likely to talk to the customer about finding solutions when foreclosure looms.

In their letter, the lawmakers asked how New York’s interests will be represented in any settlement the committee reaches. The state is one of the top locations in the country for mortgage fraud, the lawmakers wrote.

“Raising legitimate concerns about elements of the proposed settlement is a responsibility of every member of the executive committee and should never be the basis for silencing a viewpoint,” they wrote.

Mr. Owens said Mr. Schneiderman raises valid points as the negotiations seem to bring positive results one week, only to fall back into more discouraging picture later.

Mr. Miller removed Mr. Schneiderman last week.

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