Taxpayers may pay legal bills for mortgage execs
WASHINGTON (AP) -- When the government took over mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, taxpayers inherited more than just bad debts. They're also potentially on the hook for tens of millions of dollars in legal fees for the executives at the center of the housing market's collapse.
With the Justice Department investigating companies involved in the mortgage and financial meltdown, executives around the country are hiring defense lawyers. Like many large companies, Fannie and Freddie had contracts promising to cover legal bills for their executives.
When the Treasury Department delivered a $200 billion bailout to Fannie and Freddie, that obligation passed to the government, which may find itself paying for the lawyers defending the executives against the government's own prosecutors.
"Who'd have thought we might be on the hook for paying the defense costs when we're also paying the prosecution costs?" said Doug Heller, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based group that has been critical of the financial bailout packages. "To defend the economy from the havoc that's been created, we're going to defend the havoc creators?"