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Editorial: Will suit show bank's role in Shurtleff/Swallow case?

Published August 14, 2014 11:59 am

What was Bank of America's role?
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In the pantheon of multi-level marketers, online-business opportunities and payday lenders who pop up in Shurtleff-Swallow threads, one name does not seem to be in the same league: Bank of America.

As the second-largest bank in the country, the Charlotte-based financial giant is a different animal. No one from the bank is facing any criminal charges related to Shurtleff-Swallow, but the charges filed against the two former attorneys general have pulled the bank in.

Mark Shurtleff and his protégé John Swallow face multiple charges of corruption, including charges related to Shurtleff's decision to sign a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against Bank of America after a Swallow-led negotiation with the bank. The charges connect Shurtleff's decision to dismiss to the job offer he received from a D.C. Law firm that represents Bank of America before he left office in early 2013, which Shurtleff and the law firm, Troutman Sanders, deny. (Shurtleff left the job after a few months.)

The charges raise an interesting question: If Shurtleff is suspected of corruption in the Bank of America deal, what does that say about the bank? The lawsuit filed this week by Darl and Andrea McBride against Shurtleff, Swallow and the bank may be the best chance for a public airing of the bank's actions. (Darl McBride, it should be noted, is not just a bystander. He also is an accuser in other criminal charges against Shurtleff and Swallow.)

The McBrides claim Shurtleff's decision and the bank's role in that decision cost them as Bank of America mortgage holders. That decision was a surprise even to Shurtleff's own lawyers in the Attorney General's office, who thought they had a solid case and a good chance to prevail.

That case began in 2011 when a Utah couple, Timothy and Jennifer Bell, filed suit over the bank's foreclosure practices, and the attorney general's office later joined the suit on the Bells' side, agreeing that the bank had violated Utah law.

In a four-month sequence of events that Shurtleff and Swallow maintain are not connected, the Bells held a fund-raiser for Swallow's campaign, Bank of America renegotiated the Bells' mortgage to reduce it by more than $1 million and lower the interest rate, Shurtleff got a lucrative job offer from the bank's law firm and Shurtleff signed the papers requesting a dismissal of the case against the bank – a week before leaving office. 

For the bank, the dismissal meant the potential savings of tens of millions. A bank spokesman has said the Bells' loan modification was made as part of a nationwide settlement involving several big lenders and had nothing to do with the lawsuit Shurtleff got dismissed. The Shurtleff/Swallow charges say the modification and dismissal are connected.

The McBride suit could provide an independent ruling on what Bank of America did or didn't do, but that will happen only if there isn't an out-of-court settlement. Isn't that how they do it in the big leagues?