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Black and Latino Church Leaders, and the National Asian American Coalition Sue Governor Brown; Demand that $350 Million Unlawfully Diverted from Attorney General Bank Settlement be Dedicated to Homeowners Facing Foreclosure

LOS ANGELES, March 14, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- At 8:30 a.m. on Friday, March 14th, major Black, Latino and Asian American organizations filed a Petition in Sacramento Superior Court demanding that Governor Brown return up to $350 million out of California's share of the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement that was secured by California Attorney General Kamala Harris, so that it can be used as intended – to aid the state's millions of homeowners in distress via direct relief and through grants to the organizations that support them.

As alleged in the Petition, shortly after the National Mortgage Settlement was announced, the Governor unlawfully diverted these funds to meet other obligations of the State, leaving the settlement fund almost fully depleted and the State's homeowners holding an empty bag of promises. Although the State of California at that time faced a budget deficit, that was then. Now, due in part to the Governor's successful efforts, the State projects a multi-billion-dollar surplus. In light of this imminent surplus, the National Asian American Coalition (NAAC) twice urged Governor Brown to return the unlawfully taken funds so they can be used for their originally intended purpose. The Governor failed to respond.

Leaders of the groups represented in the suit include the Chair of the Orange County Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and the Senior Pastor for Christ Our Redeemer African Methodist Episcopal (COR AME) church, the largest Black church in Orange County; the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), representing 40,000 Latino evangelical churches across the nation; and the NAAC, a HUD-approved Asian American homeownership advocacy group, the largest of its kind in the nation.

Representing the Petitioners in this lawsuit is Jenner & Block LLP, including Neil Barofsky (California pro hac vice application to be submitted), the former Special Inspector General at the US Department of the Treasury. Robert Gnaizda, former general counsel for the Greenlining Institute, is general counsel for the NAAC and represents the COR AME church in its advocacy efforts. 

Faith Bautista, CEO and president of the NAAC, joined by Reverend Mark Whitlock, the director of corporate partnerships for the 5,000 Black AME churches and senior pastor at COR AME Church of Irvine, and Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, President of the NHCLC, together say:

"We commend the Governor for his efforts in resolving our state's fiscal crisis. However, we now pray that the Governor will turn his attention and distinguished skills to help solve the homeowner crisis by replenishing the settlement fund by Palm Sunday, so that we can offer sermons of hope from our pulpits and spread the word to California's millions of homeowners in distress."

Neil Barofsky and Rick Richmond of Jenner & Block state: "It is an honor for us to represent such an impressive and courageous group of petitioners as they seek through this action to bring some measure of relief and justice to the struggling homeowners who continue to suffer as the frontline victims of the financial crisis."

A telephonic press conference on the lawsuit will be held today at 11:30 a.m. from the offices of counsel Jenner & Block LLP, in downtown Los Angeles. Please join by logging into https://jenner.conferencinghub.com/Web/NAACvBrown, or by dialing (866) 319-3661, passcode 3129232608. Please visit http://lawsuit.naac.org for the full text of the Petition, as well as letters of support from two other national HUD-approved home counseling agencies focusing on minority communities.

SOURCE National Asian American Coalition

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