judge dismisses Bank of America lawsuit against county | News, Sports, Jobs
A federal judge on Monday dismissed a Bank of America lawsuit against Maui County, paving the way for the county to pursue possible claims against the banking giant over a $ 150 million mortgage pledge to native Hawaiians and others that would not have been respected. .
Highlighting that the county has yet to file a lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright in Oahu allowed the county’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit against Bank of America in an online hearing Monday.
Seabright called the bank’s decision a large-scale preemptive strike against the county, which is poised to take legal action over long-standing concerns that Bank of America is waiving home loans for Hawaiians, Filipinos and other residents.
“Most parties don’t have the resources to do what you did. I want to say . . . it’s a kind of preemptive strike ”, Seabright told the bank’s attorney, Ryan T. Scarborough of Williams & Connolly. “I don’t know what the county is going to claim. And neither can you.
Scarborough said the county’s legal threats have been ” escalation “ in recent years, culminating in a decision in July to retain legal counsel.
“The fundamental problem here is. . . there was a clear threat from the county that they were going to pursue ”, he said during the hearing. “And that’s literally the language. . . they adopted in their resolution. And that’s the language that board members use when, when they vote.
Margery S. Bronster of Honolulu-based Bronster Fujichaku Robbins, who represents the county, said the Bank of America suit is a “Blatant attempt” to define the county’s reasons for a lawsuit, then dismiss the arguments by “prematurely” ask the court to rule on defenses in a case that has not even been brought.
“They do not know what are the causes of action”, she said. “They don’t know when we could bring them. They don’t know whether we’re going to take them to state or federal courts. They don’t know if we’re going to bring them.
Bank of America filed a lawsuit in federal court in July to arrest Maui County hours after Maui County Council voted to hire legal counsel to pursue claims against the bank and other mortgage lenders for “Non-compliance with loan commitments, fraudulent foreclosures and similar illegal behavior”.
In public testimony to the council in July, Brandon Maka’awa’awa of Na Po’e Kokua congratulated the council and said he hoped other Hawaii leaders would follow suit. He added that the effort to right the wrongs against native Hawaiians has been community driven.
“When you go after someone like Bank of America, there isn’t, you know, you don’t make a lot of friends there.” he said. “There aren’t a lot of companies lined up to help you.”
As a condition of Bank of America’s acquisition of Liberty Bank in the 1990s, the Federal Reserve system ordered Bank of America to provide $ 150 million in home loans on Hawaiian Home Lands by 1998.
The nonprofit Na Po’e Kokua, which formed the Hawaii Fair Lending Coalition as a group of native Hawaiian housing advocates in 1993, said the bank broke that promise and has alleged discriminatory lending practices in the form of redlining – denying services to residents of certain areas based on the racial or ethnic makeup of those places.
Bank of America claimed it fulfilled the $ 150 million commitment and received a confirmation letter from the State Department of Hawaiian Home Lands in 2007; the Hawaiian Homes Commission in 2012 disputed the letter and said the bank still had not fully honored its commitment.
In 2018, Governor David Ige invited bank officials to meet with Na Po’e Kokua in Hawaii and find a fair settlement.
Unhappy with the lack of movement on the issue, Maui County voted to hire legal counsel earlier this year.
“Bank of America’s preliminary late fee estimates are nearly $ 400,000,000 based on urban development data, lost opportunities for building equity and reaping the benefits of a growing housing market. booming and affordable mortgage payments rather than skyrocketing rents over the past 20 years for 890 Native Hawaiian families who should have received Bank of America mortgages by 1998 ” according to the documents of the Board’s Governance, Ethics and Transparency Committee.
Monday’s ruling says Maui County can seek damages for Bank of America’s failure to meet its loan commitments, according to board member Tasha Kama, who worked on the issue during her tenure and in as a member of Na Po’e Kokua before joining the board. .
“Our county would be in a much better financial situation – and many families would now own their own homes – if Bank of America had kept its promise to the Hawaiian and Filipino communities,” he added. she said on Monday. “Bank of America must be held accountable. “
Ian Chan Hodges, a native of Hawaii and a resident of Haiku, who has worked for more than two decades on the issue, praised Monday’s decision on “Largest Native Land Trust Loan Commitment in US History”.
“It was gratifying to hear the Chief Federal Justice of Hawaii express and reject what the community has known for decades: this Bank of America arrogantly believes it has the resources to define its own reality and remain irresponsible towards it. the rule of law. he said.
County attorneys and special advocates will now confer on the next step, council officials said on Monday.
* Kehaulani Cerizo can be contacted at [email protected]