Perrelli, the department’s No. 3 official and one of the Obama administration’s top negotiators, is the government’s point person in talks with the country’s largest banks over a massive settlement stemming from widespread problems within the mortgage-servicing industry.
Those problems surfaced nationally last fall. The scandal, which included instances of forged foreclosure documents, flawed paperwork and woeful customer service, prompted nearly a dozen federal agencies and 50 state attorneys general to join forces against the industry’s largest players.
Perrelli and Iowa attorney general Tom Miller have tried to hold together that sprawling coalition while also trying to force firms such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo to overhaul their servicing practices and set aside tens of billions of dollars in penalties that could be used to aid troubled borrowers.
The outcome remains far from certain, but Perrelli said bringing closure to the issue ultimately could help heal the ailing economy.
“My focus has really been working toward a coordinated, comprehensive resolution,” he said, because “the housing market is an extraordinarily important part of the economy, and this set of issues has been one fact in stalling that market.”
If state and federal regulators don’t remain united and instead seek individual settlements, he said, “the problems in the marketplace will persist” and uncertainty will linger. “So I think this is an area where broad-based resolution has a lot of merit.”
It’s an issue to which Perrelli, whose division oversees tens of thousands of cases on varied topics, has dedicated a substantial amount of personal attention. “You have to pick and choose what you devote your time to,” he said. “And I’ve chosen to take on a series of very large and complicated matters and try to bring them to resolution.”
He has a history of doing just that.
After the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Perrelli negotiated the agreement that led BP to set up an independent claims process and set aside $20 billion to aid individuals and businesses harmed by the accident. He since has led the administration’s efforts to ensure that BP follows through, and he has pushed the fund’s administrator, attorney Kenneth R. Feinberg, to improve transparency and accountability of the claims process.
Even with the occasional criticism from Perrelli, Feinberg said he respects how the 45-year-old Virginia native handled the disaster.
“He has praised the program when it deserved praise; he has not hesitated to criticize the program when it needed improvement,” Feinberg said. “He has been absolutely steadfast, determined, and I think really a dedicated public servant. He’s in the crosshairs of some of the most difficult problems confronting the country. I have only the highest admiration for him.”