City Attorney Mike Aguirre filed suit this morning against Washington Mutual, alleging the bank’s predatory lending practices have contributed to the foreclosure epidemic.

He wants the bank to stop all foreclosure proceedings on predatory subprime loans and modify the loans to allow borrowers to stay in their homes. He defined those loans generally as mortgages that were illegal on the day they were made because the bank knew the borrower would be unable to afford the loan as it matured. Here’s a copy of the suit.

“The philosophy behind what we’re doing … is that the relief is going to come from the bottom up, and not from the top down,” he said.

He said he will sue at least one other lender. The WaMu suit comes in the same week as a settlement announced to end lawsuits from 11 states against Countrywide Financial Corp.

State Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office helped to negotiate that settlement.

Aguirre filed his suit against Washington Mutual on behalf of the people of California. He said he hadn’t discussed the suit with Brown and didn’t know if Brown knew about his WaMu suit. Asked if he was stepping on Brown’s toes by filing the suit, he told reporters this morning, “I hope not — seriously, I hope not.”

Brown sued Countrywide in June; Aguirre jumped in in July on behalf of the city of San Diego. Brown and Aguirre have publicly sparred over their approaches and their similar lawsuits to combat the complex situation faced in the state by homeowners stuck in mortgages with skyrocketing payments.

The WaMu suit comes after Aguirre told reporters Monday he would sue more lenders in the wake of the Countrywide settlement. That settlement didn’t expressly address Aguirre’s lawsuit, but he said today he is “very close” to considering his Countrywide suit settled, but is still waiting for assurances from the bank — now owned by Bank of America — that it has enough staff to deal with the influx of borrowers seeking workouts.


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