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State gave tax break to company Bondi was investigating for foreclosure fraud

While attorney general Pam Bondi was investigating Lender Processing Services for foreclosure abuses, the state of Florida was preparing a sweet tax break deal for the Jacksonville-based company.

Last week, Bondi announced a national settlement with LPS, and the company agreed to pay $120 million to settle allegations that it operated as a so-called foreclosure mill, making use of fraudulently signed court documents.

Money kicked in from Florida taxpayers could help pay that fine. LPS received a tax incentive award of at least $1.15 million, with some of the payments going out even as Bondi’s fraud inquiry was ongoing.

“This settlement reflects the efforts of the states to work together to remedy the widespread abuses occurring in the residential mortgage industry in the past few years,” Bondi said in a statement last week. “The proposed judgment holds LPS and its subsidiaries accountable and requires reforms that ensure the proper handling of residential mortgage-related documents.”

Florida’s tax incentive describes Lender Processing Services—a mortgage data and processing--as a “qualified target industry” tax credit recipient. As part of the settlement with Bondi, the company admitted that it had an organized practice of "surrogate signing," in which unauthorized employees signed legal documents under the names of other people. 

The company has agreed to create or retain 210 jobs as part of the tax break deal.

Bondi faced some criticism in 2011 after her office fired two investigators who had been looking into foreclosure abuses at LPS, which had contributed to the AG’s campaign. A subsequent review of the firings cleared Bondi of any wrongdoing.

LPS was further scrutinized because a former assistant AG left government and went to work for the company.

Florida is set to receive $8.6 million from the national settlement.