PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Relations have soured between some foreclosure activists and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who earned praise for his role in a controversial Wall Street settlement but has more recently also become an object of criticism for that same role.
Schneiderman and the Obama administration tout the $25 billion settlement as an example of their willingness to get tough on big banks that are accused of widespread fraud in the foreclosure process. But several experts, including Neil Barofsky, the former special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, say the fine print on the deal makes it look more like a subsidy for Wall Street than any kind of punishment.
Schneiderman appeared before a generally sympathetic crowd at the annual Netroots Nation conference in Providence, R.I., on Thursday and pledged to hold banks "accountable." But organizers for a panel on foreclosure fraud told HuffPost that Schneiderman's office declined an invitation to participate in the panel.
The panel, which was held on Friday, was generally critical of Schneiderman, portraying him as a public official who had betrayed the trust of troubled homeowners who believed he would fight on their behalf. The panelists and members of the audience criticized the attorney general and the Obama administration for making public statements about holding banks accountable and helping homeowners, while programs designed to deliver aid to borrowers have met problems and bank malpractice continues.
The panel was organized by FireDogLake blogger David Dayen, and featured former TARP official Barofsky, white-collar crime attorney Lynn Szymoniak and Masschusetts foreclosure activist Malcolm Chu. Dayen told HuffPost that he extended the invitation to participate directly to Schneiderman's chief of staff, Neal Kwatra.
But when HuffPost asked Kwatra about the invitation, he denied that one had been extended.
"There was no invitation to any panel," Kwatra told HuffPost. "Nobody spoke to me -- 100 percent not at all."
Two other Netroots attendees say they observed the invitation. Barofsky and Rick Jacobs, founder and chair of the Courage Campaign, said they witnessed Dayen ask Kwatra if Schneiderman would like to be present on the panel. The organizers and Schneiderman's office have since thrown denials and insults over their accounts.
"I was there," Barofsky said in an email to HuffPost. "[Kwatra] heard it, too. He laughed in response."