|A director on the board of one of the biggest subprime mortgage lending companies is running for governor of Massachusetts.
Former U.S. attorney Deval Patrick, the first prominent African-American to run for governor in the state, is a member of Ameriquest Mortgage Co.'s board of directors.
But Patrick has found himself having to defend his relationship with the Orange, Calif.-based lender because of a massive predatory lending settlement and recent Ameriquest layoffs in Massachusetts.
Earlier this year Ameriquest, without acknowledging any wrong doing, agreed to pay $325 million to settle charges of unfair lending practices in 49 states. Among the states bringing the charges and negotiating the settlement was Massachusetts.
And this month, Ameriquest laid off 3,800 employees.
Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly is Patrick's opponent in the September Democratic primary.
Reilly has called Ameriquest "the most notorious" predatory lender in the nation during an April 21 debate with Patrick.
"This is a question of conflicts," Reilly said, according to a videotape of the debate reviewed by MortgageDaily.com. "You have an involvement with Ameriquest. I spent a year, two years, along with 50 other states fighting Ameriquest predatory lenders.
"Maybe you can tell us how much money you make from Ameriquest," Reilly said in a direct challenge to Patrick.
Patrick said during the debate, which was televised by a Boston television station, that he does not hide from his association with the company, adding he was asked to join the board to help the company overcome its problems.
"Ameriquest blew it," Patrick said, responding to Reilly. "I know it, you know it, and more importantly, they know it, which is precisely why they invited me to come on their board, to help straighten them out."
Patrick acknowledged the importance of the settlement.
"You had a role in it," Patrick told Reilly, "and so did I.
"I've been involved in predatory lending issues for 20 years," Patrick said. "And that's a very, very good and important settlement."
Following the debate, Patrick spokeswoman Libby DeVecchi said Reilly focused "on worn attack lines."
"Tom Reilly's attacks are an example of the same old thing in politics in our state that has turned people off to civic life," DeVecchi said in a statement.
Patrick's campaign has indicated it will eventually reveal on a financial disclosure form the amount of money he makes from Ameriquest.
Patrick continued to take political heat after Ameriquest announced in early May it would lay off nearly 4,000 workers across the country, including employees in Massachusetts. Nine branches of Ameriquest's retail operation are expected to close.
In a letter to Patrick, Mike Fadel, executive vice president of Services Employees International Union Local 1199, said the layoffs are "the latest in a long line of anti-worker and anti-consumer practices in which Ameriquest has engaged."
"You have a choice to make, either you are on the side of Massachusetts residents or you are on the side of one of the worst examples of corporate greed," Fadel wrote in his letter. "With Ameriquest's massive firings of workers and long history of preying on consumers in Massachusetts, you should immediately resign your position on the board."
Patrick's' campaign indicated he would not resign and that the office closings were "competitive" business decisions.