UPDATED 6/24/11 11:30 a.m.

Civil Beat reported last week that mortgage giant Fannie Mae found a way around Hawaii’s new foreclosure law.

On Thursday, Fannie found a way to skirt reporters, too.

Fannie scheduled a 10 a.m. conference call with representatives of Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE), a non-profit that pushed for SB 651, what some call the nation’s strongest foreclosure law. FACE wanted to ask Fannie about its recent decision to switch all of its non-judicial foreclosures to judicial foreclosures.

Staff for state Sen. Roz Baker as well as staff for Rep. Bob Herkes, both co-introducers of the bill, were invited to join in the call. So were representatives from Hawaiian Community Assets and Catholic Charities. A Maui homeowner going through the foreclosure process would also be listening in.

But FACE policy director Kim Harmon said the presence of two reporters on the call — Civil Beat and Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Andrew Gomes — was too much for the government controlled mortgage finance company.

At 9:15 a.m., FACE staff received an email from Terry Davis, Fannie’s VP for Single Family Business in Washington D.C.

Harmon dictated the email to Civil Beat:

“Drew, if you have a few minutes this morning to discuss the meeting attendees. Your attendees include press, which is a surprise and a concern. If you can speak this morning, can you please call my cell phone?”

At 9:46 a.m., less than 15 minutes before the scheduled call, Harmon emailed Civil Beat:

“(Fannie) just emailed and said that they have a problem with press being on the call this morning. Since they waited until the last minute to inform us, I am just going to wait and deal with this on the call. Please feel free to get on and I will do my best to get them to change their minds. If they threaten to get off the call if you stay on, then we will probably have to ask you to get off, but it is up to you if you do get off the call at that point. I don’t know what the rules of journalism dictate at that point.”

Civil Beat attempted to join in on the call at 10 a.m., but couldn’t get through.

At 10:10 a.m., Harmon sent out another email:

“(Fannie) just sent this email stating “we need to cancel this meeting”. I am trying to figure this out with them asap. Sorry for the inconvenience. I sent them an agenda and list of everyone who would be on the call yesterday, so they know they have inconvenienced a lot of us.”

Civil Beat could not reach a representative of Fannie for an explanation.

At 10:39 a.m., Harmon sent Civil Beat another email explaining why Fannie canceled the call:

Hello Everybody,

I just got off the phone with Terri Davis, FNMA’s VP for Single Family Business in DC. She said that she chose to cancel the call because:

  • When some of the Fannie Mae people found out that there would be a homeowner on the call, “that really changes the discussion and we did not feel ready for that”
  • Hawaii’s congressional delegation met with FNMA this morning about this same issue and “that meeting was longer that we expected, and we did not feel like we had the right people scheduled on our end for the discussion that you probably wanted to have”.
  • Because of the attention that FNMA’s announcement has gotten from Hawaii, FNMA claims that they have now posted more information about their June 10 announcement to servicers in Hawaii. Here is the link they gave me, see what you think: https://www.efanniemae.com/sf/servicing/delmgt/index.jsp

FYI, I received an update this morning from our congressional delegation via Jun Yang (FACE organizer) who is in DC this week. The report is that Hawaii’s delegation was not satisfied with FNMA’s responses and that FNMA does not seem to understand the foreclosure situation “on the ground” in Hawaii.

Thank you all for your patience. We will do our best to reschedule this call. Call me if you have any questions.

UPDATE: According to Peter Boylan, press secretary to Sen. Daniel Inouye, Jun Yang (mentioned in Harmon’s email above) mischaracterized the meeting congressional representatives had with Fannie.

“Staff members from the delegation listened to FNMA’s presentation, asked questions and voiced concerns about the GSE’s actions,” Boylan told Civil Beat in an email. “However, no staff member said they were unsatisfied with the meeting, nor did any staff member suggest that FNMA ‘does not seem to understand the foreclosure situation ‘on the ground’ in Hawaii.'”

After this article was published, Amy Bonitatibus, a spokeswoman with Fannie contacted Civil Beat. She said she was not directly involved with the FACE conference call, but reiterated that Hawaii congressional leaders met with Fannie this morning.

“I actually am not aware of why the call was scheduled or canceled,” Bonitatibus said. “But I do know that we met with a Hawaii congressional delegation earlier today. And so I think between that meeting and the actual guide announcement, which is very clearly posted on our website, we have been very transparent about the policy and our rationale behind it.”

Bonitatibus said that any time the media has questions, representatives from Fannie are available.

Read more Civil Beat coverage on foreclosures: