(Updates with government investigation starting in sixth paragraph.)
June 30 (Bloomberg) -- Bank of America Corp. opposes a request by the Arizona attorney general’s office to interview former employees as part of a state lawsuit against the bank over mortgage modifications.
The state is seeking court approval to conduct interviews with non-management former employees without bank attorneys present so it can “fully investigate” Bank of America’s practices, according to court papers.
Bank of America argues such interviews are prohibited and asked the court to prevent the attorney general from “maneuvering around Arizona’s discovery and ethical rules,” according to court papers filed June 27.
In its lawsuit, Arizona accuses Bank of America of misleading homeowners who were seeking loan modifications, saying the bank “repeatedly has deceived” borrowers about the process, according to the complaint.
“It is crucial that the state be permitted to interview former employees without the presence of defendants’ counsel so that these witnesses can speak freely and without interference, and the state can carry out its investigation and discover the truth,” the office said in court papers.
Arizona said it has reason to worry the bank will interfere with the interviews if not conducted outside the presence of bank attorneys. The state pointed to claims made in court papers by an official with the U.S. Housing and Urban Development inspector general’s office that Bank of America “significantly hindered” an investigation into bank practices.
In its response to the state, Bank of America denied it had interfered with the investigation, saying those claims are “an incomplete and misleading picture” of the bank’s interactions with the inspector general’s office.
Between Oct. 20 and Feb. 9, the bank produced more than 55,000 pages of documents to the inspector general’s office, according to a court filing by a bank attorney. The office also interviewed at least 18 bank employees in October and November and participated in 15 depositions of current and former employees between February and June. The bank attorney, Laura Hussain, said in court papers it was her understanding that the depositions were conducted by the Department of Justice.
The case is Arizona v. Countrywide Financial Corp., CVArizona Superior Court, Maricopa County.
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