2016 Visionary of the Year
Lisa Madigan’s public service record is one of many “firsts.” The first woman elected to serve as Attorney General of Illinois, Madigan is now the senior most female Attorney General in the country. She is also the first Illinois Attorney General to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court in nearly three decades.
Since taking office in 2003, Attorney General Madigan has established herself as a national leader through her aggressive actions to protect consumers, safeguard communities, advocate for working men and women, ensure access to affordable, quality healthcare, and fight for open, honest government.
Madigan consistently brings back hundreds of millions of dollars to Illinois taxpayers each year. Since 2003, she has recouped more than $13 billion in funds defrauded from or owed to the state.
Attorney General Madigan is largely recognized as one of the country’s foremost experts on consumer rights and regularly testifies before Congress and federal commissions on a range of issues, including mortgage lending abuses, privacy rights and employment discrimination. She has also been called to testify about rising student debt and consumer risks associated with for-profit schools.
A respected advocate for homeowners’ rights, Madigan was among the first in the country to hold big banks accountable for their part in the financial crisis. Among her most notable cases, Madigan secured an $8.7 billion national settlement with Countrywide—acquired by Bank of America—in 2008 to hold the country’s former largest lender accountable for its role in the economic meltdown. At the time, it was the largest predatory lending settlement in U.S. history.
Madigan also played a key role in securing more than $3.2 billion in relief for Illinois homeowners as a result of the national foreclosure settlement with the nation’s five largest bank servicers: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Ally Bank, formerly GMAC. Attorney General Madigan was a lead negotiator in the $25 billion settlement, which was secured after allegations arose that the banks were “robo-signing” foreclosure documents and using fraudulent practices in servicing loans for struggling homeowners.
Madigan also worked with the U.S. Department of Justice to forge two settlements with big banks for discriminatory lending practices against African American and Latino borrowers. Madigan sued and reached a $335 million settlement — the largest ever of a fair lending case — with Countrywide, a subsidiary of Bank of America, and later a $175 million national settlement with Wells Fargo. Madigan is the only state Attorney General to pursue a fair lending lawsuit against a national bank.
As the state’s legal officer, Attorney General Madigan has repeatedly stood up to utility companies that unjustly overbilled customers and engaged in unfair business practices, recovering more than 2.1 billion dollars for ratepayers.
Madigan has led the crackdown against predatory for-profit colleges and secured debt relief for their former students. More recently, she exposed fraudulent practices of student lenders and passed a Student Loan Bill of Rights in Illinois to fight for borrowers’ rights.
She has championed a law to require Illinois colleges and universities to respond to sexual violence on campus, protect survivors’ rights and provide a fair and balanced process to address complaints. She successfully advocated to amend the Illinois Constitution to strengthen the rights of crime victims, championed tougher sanctions against sexual predators and launched a statewide initiative to remove violent criminals from nursing homes.
She also pushed for sunshine laws that have increased people’s access to all levels of government, including a hard-fought effort to amend and strengthen the state’s Freedom of Information Act and the creation of the first-ever Public Access Counselor in Illinois. Madigan convened a coalition of open-government advocates to help negotiate, pass and ultimately enact the measure.
Among the many awards and honors received for her principled service to the people of Illinois, Madigan has received the Better Business Bureau’s Torchbearer Award, the Neighborhood Housing Services’ Community Advocate Award, the Anti-Defamation League’s Bernard Nath Award, the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award, and she has been recognized as an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow.
Inspired by the belief that one person can make a difference, a lesson she learned from the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon, Madigan has spent most of her career in public service. While pursuing her undergraduate degree at Georgetown University, Madigan worked in Senator Paul Simon’s office. Before seeking her law degree, she taught math and English to Zulu girls in Apartheid-era South Africa. When Madigan returned to Chicago, she developed an innovative after-school and weekend program to keep kids away from gangs and drugs in the Austin and Logan Square communities of Chicago.
Madigan was engaged in private law practice prior to her election to the Illinois State Senate in 1998. Convinced that she could do more for the people of Illinois as the state’s chief legal advocate, she ran for Attorney General in 2002. Attorney General Madigan was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2006, 2010 and 2014.
Madigan is a graduate of Georgetown University and Loyola University Chicago School of Law. She resides in Chicago with her husband Pat Byrnes, who is a cartoonist for The New Yorker, and their two daughters.