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Washington Assistant Attorney General Who Negotiated Big Mortgage Settlement Is Retiring

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Washington Attorney General's Office
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David Huey worked for three attorneys general in Washington: Chris Gregoire, Rob McKenna (pictured on left) and Bob Ferguson

Here are some words that might give you a flashback to the darkest days of the mortgage meltdown: no-doc loans, teaser rates, robo-signing.

But long before abuses in the mortgage industry became dinner-table conversation, one quiet assistant attorney general in Washington state was already targeting predatory lending. That man is David Huey, and he's now retiring after a string of high-profile successes.

In 2001, he was hired by then-Attorney General Chris Gregoire to join the consumer protection division of her office. He had already done that kind of work in North Dakota. 

Huey dove into investigating sub-prime mortgage lenders, ultimately leading to multi-million dollar settlements with Household International, Ameriquest Mortgage Co. and Countrywide. All three of those deals were reached before it was clear just how deep the foreclosure crisis would become. 

`People Were Getting Ripped Off'

"It looked like a lot of people were getting ripped off, but I would have never thought it would have crashed the economy the way it did," Huey said. 

Still, once it became clear that even the biggest Wall Street banks were culpable, Washington and seven other states took the lead in negotiating a $25 billion dollar settlement. 

Sitting at the negotiating table was David Huey. 

"I would often look around the room and think about things like the pay differential between the AG attorneys and the bank attorneys," Huey said with a laugh.

But, it turns out those Wall Street lawyers in their fancy suits met their match.

"Their first offer was a billion," he said. "We didn’t walk out on them, but we were very displeased."

Changing The Banks

It wasn’t just money the states wanted from the banks. They also wanted new standards for mortgage lending and ways to make sure banks complied. Huey says they got that, and he says it’s been gratifying to see banks make cultural changes after seeing the worst of the industry. In one investigation, he found a large mortgage lender that had "cocaine Fridays."

Huey's former bosses praise his work.

"His personality is not that of a bad cop, but you can be tenacious and determined to get your result without being nasty about it, and that fits Dave to a tee," said former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna. 

"I'm just glad David Huey was on our side and not the banks' side - that we had someone who was such a strong lawyer and such a strong advocate on the side of the people for these disputes," said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. "Every day he took a huge pay cut in order to engage in public service on behalf of the people."

Huey received a distinguished public service award from the U.S. Department of Justice along with awards from the Washington State Bar Association and the National Association of Attorneys General.

He says in retirement he plans to canoe, backpack, help out at legal aid clinics and maybe take a Shakespeare class. His retirement officially began last week.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.