It took about 500 days of negotiation. But on Thursday, February 9, attorneys general representing nearly all 50 states made the announcement: Five banks will pay a combined $25 billion over three years in civil penalties and loan write-downs for having serviced mortgage foreclosure paperwork over the previous four years without proper review. The settlement, say supporters, will compensate homeowners for prior predatory lending practices, reform the banking industry and give the economy a boost. But the context of the case suggests an ulterior motive: socializing the housing market. This by no means is the first such attempt during the Obama years. And the true cost of this shakedown, the largest of its kind since the 1998 tobacco industry settlement, may be far higher than $25 billion.