Rumors have been floating around for months that a forthcoming book on the central role played by Ameriquest in the sub-prime mortgage scandal would shine a less than flattering light on the role played by then-private-citizen Deval Patrick as a member of the five-member Ameriquest board.
Well, the book came out this week. Titled The Monster - How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America - and Spawned a Global Crisis, by investigative journalist Michael Hudson, it arrives basically as rumored- not that more than a handful of voters will have a chance to know that before casting their ballots four days from now.
The Boston Herald gives the book a review today in its business section, under the headline "Deval Patrick's mortgage 'Monster' - New book ties Governor to economic collapse." Two weeks ago the story might have made some waves. Four days from voting, though, it is likely to get lost in the pre-election shuffle. Here's the core of the Herald article:
“The Monster: How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America - And Spawned a Global Crisis,” by reporter Michael Hudson, chronicles how former Ameriquest owner Roland Arnall led a cocaine-fueled boiler room culture of predatory lenders who helped create the subprime mortgage crisis that caused the Great Recession.Leave aside the unavoidable questions that ought to be asked of a Justice Department lawyer who first heads up an investigation of a predatory lending company, and later makes millions serving on its board. Such an arrangement would never fly were the candidate in question less beloved of the Fourth Estate. The real issue here - or what would be the real issue, were the book released with some simmer time prior to election day - is this: Patrick claimed in 2006 that he joined Ameriquest's board to help reform the company, and told the Globe that " the company is using the [charges of predatory lending] as an opportunity to raise the bar for the entire industry."
As a Justice Department lawyer, Patrick first met Arnall while investigating his company. The book said the $4 million penalty that Patrick exacted allowed Arnall to use $1 million of the money to pay off interest groups and, according to author Hudson, Arnall and his company “came out smelling pretty well.”
The future Bay State governor was quickly won over by the cunning billionaire, according to the book. Patrick eventually landed a very lucrative spot on the board of Ameriquest’s parent company and later backed Arnall for an ambassadorship.
To say things didn't quite work out that way would be an epic understatement. As it turned out, Ameriquest sold over $45 billion in sub-prime loans to Lehman Brothers and other Wall Street firms, contributing directly to Lehman's collapse and, shortly thereafter, the housing bubble explosion that took down the economy.
Team Patrick's reaction to all of this is predictable and understandable. As reported in the Herald, Patrick's campaign spokesman dismisses the book, saying it does not "raise any issues that were not vetted and addressed when the governor ran in 2006." That is manifestly untrue, but for Patrick campaign purposes four days before the election the evasion will more than suffice.
I fully realize that at this point, this post is little more than a ventilation by a Baker supporter who has been continually frustrated by the persistent exaggerations, misrepresentations and outright untruths propagated for a year and a half about Charlie Baker's supposed role in the Big Dig. Ameriquest, the melt-down, Patrick's role in any or all of it... all of this is far too complicated to be digested and analyzed before Tuesday. But if you've read this far, I'll leave you with this final, poignant irony:
"The Monster" is, to date, the definitive account of Ameriquest's role in the global financial meltdown - "the book" on the sub-prime mortgage scandal, in other words. Even though it deals with a subject of truly immense breadth and scope, "The Monster" mentions Deval Patrick a dozen times.
Conversely, "the book" on the Big Dig (written by former Patrick Transpo Secretary Jim Aloisi) mentions Charlie Baker exactly... zero times.