The House Ethics Committee released a report today clearing Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Long Beach, of wrongdoing in her home foreclosure fiasco. But the report discloses some things that don't make her look good. Herewith, the five most delicious disclosures:
1. Richardson called a Washington Mutual lobbyist to help stop her foreclosure.
Richardson said she reached out to Sacramento lobbyist Jan Owen because she was the one person she knew at WaMu from her time in the Legislature. Owen referred the case to the bank's “Executive Response Team,” which put a hold on the foreclosure. Connections help!
2. When the foreclosure happened anyway, Washington Mutual executives went into “crisis mode,” fearing that the fiasco made them look like bumblers.
As Washington Mutual scrambled to figure out what went wrong with Richardson's loan, they also spent a lot of time crafting their response to the press. That response was to stonewall. But as the situation worsened, Owen told a colleague they were on “borrowed time.” As she explained to the House investigative subcommittee, she was “concerned that Washington Mutual would be perceived in the press as a bumbling company.” A few months later the company would be bankrupt, and this would be the least of their concerns.
3. While working to fix the situation, Washington Mutual execs privately trashed Richardson.
After WaMu decided to rescind the foreclosure of Richardson's home, Alan Elias, senior VP for corporate communications, said in an e-mail to a colleague, “I really am looking forward to her almost immediately defaulting on any new plans or failing to pay to get caught up. Maybe we should throw a lawnmower into the deal to sweetem [sic] the pot?! ;)” Since modifying her loan, however, she has managed to stay current.
4. When applying for her loan, Richardson knowingly claimed to earn $12,000 a year on rent in her San Pedro property, though she did not.
The report includes persuasive evidence that Richardson's mortgage broker, Charles Thomas, committed fraud by forging rental agreements for her properties in Long Beach and San Pedro. The properties were never rented. The report concludes, based largely on Richardson's testimony, that she knew nothing about the fraud.
But there is a document, in her own handwriting, in which she claimed to earn $12,000 per year as a “rent credit.” She testified that this was rent she expected to get from her mother, but never received. The document was used to substantiate her income in order to get the loan. The Ethics Committee chose to refer Thomas to the Justice Department for a possible loan fraud prosecution, but gave Richardson a pass.
Richardson's lawyers got a letter from the DOJ earlier this year stating that Richardson will not be charged with loan fraud.
5. Richardson's credit score was not good.
Her scores from the three consumer credit rating agencies: 575, 582 and 603.