Monthly Archives: January 2012

Lanny Breuer, Task Force Leader, Doesn’t Bother Showing Up For Mortgage Fraud Press Conference

By Matt Stoller, the former Senior Policy Advisor to Rep. Alan Grayson and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. You can reach him at stoller (at) gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.

Eric Holder has come out with details on the task force. But first, let’s look at a smoke signal. At this press conference announcing the task force, Holder had to apologize for Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, one of the key leaders of the investigative unit. Breuer, you see, couldn’t make it to the press conference because he was traveling. That’s how important this task force is to Breuer, so important that his travel schedule couldn’t brook interference. Such a bureaucratic snub has been no doubt noticed by the various underlings at the DOJ and the US Attorney offices.

Ok, let’s go to the substance.

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Can the Schneiderman-Infused Financial Fraud Unit Prosecute Vikram Pandit?

By Matt Stoller, the former Senior Policy Advisor to Rep. Alan Grayson and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. You can reach him at stoller (at) gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.

There are two underlying structural problems with the new(ish) Federal task force on financial fraud. One, it is the policy of the administration to protect the banking system’s basic architecture, which means the compensation structure and the existing personnel who run these large institutions. Any real investigation into the financial collapse will inevitably lead to the collapse of this architecture. Thus, any real investigation will be impeded when it begins to conflict the basic policy framework of the Obama administration. And this framework is set by Obama. It’s what he believes in. He made this clear in his first State of the Union, when he said a priority of the administration was to ensure that “the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money to lend even in more difficult times.”

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Michael Hudson: Banks Weren’t Meant to Be Like This

By Michael Hudson, a research professor of Economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College

A shorter version of this article in German will run in the Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung on January 28. 2012

The inherently symbiotic relationship between banks and governments recently has been reversed. In medieval times, wealthy bankers lent to kings and princes as their major customers. But now it is the banks that are needy, relying on governments for funding – capped by the post-2008 bailouts to save them from going bankrupt from their bad private-sector loans and gambles.

Yet the banks now browbeat governments – not by having ready cash but by threatening to go bust and drag the economy down with them if they are not given control of public tax policy, spending and planning. The process has gone furthest in the United States.

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“Mortgage Fraud is a Top Priority for This Administration”

By Matt Stoller, the former Senior Policy Advisor to Rep. Alan Grayson and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. You can reach him at stoller (at) gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.

Since the President is now establishing yet another committee to look into the mortgage fraud crisis, I figured it would be useful to look into the history of the Obama and Bush administrations’ approaches to the problem of vast financial fraud.

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Philip Pilkington: Is QE/ZIRP Killing Demand?

em>By Philip Pilkington, a journalist and writer living in Dublin, Ireland

Warren Mosler recently ran a very succinct account of why the Fed/Bank of England’s easy monetary policies – that is, the combination of Quantitative Easing and their Zero Interest Rate Programs – might actually be killing demand in the economy.

Warren Mosler recently ran a very succinct account of why the Fed/Bank of England’s easy monetary policies – that is, the combination of Quantitative Easing and their Zero Interest Rate Programs – might actually be killing demand in the economy.

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More Caution and Skepticism About Federal Mortgage “Investigation”

While a large number of “liberal” groups, ranging from the official Democratic party outlets (the Center for American Progress) to ones that sometimes cross swords with the Administration (MoveOn, the Working Families Party) praised the Tuesday evening announcement of mortgage “investigations” with Schneiderman co-chairing the effort, others who have been watching the mortgage legal fight closely were far more ambivalent about the creation of a new unit in an initiative …which has done pretty much nothing since its creation in 2009 (boldface mine):

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Quelle Surprise! Bank of America Accused of Blocking Arizona AG Investigation

One thing NC readers may have become attuned to, either via personal experience or some of the discussions we have had here, is how often a considerable portion of the value of a deal lies in releases (waivers of liability) or other provisions that might not seem all that important to the party signing away its rights.

Bloomberg reports that the state of Arizona has told the court that Bank of American is undermining the state’s investigation of its loan modification practices. The probe comes out of a 2010 lawsuit which alleged that Countrywide misled customers about its loan modification policies. So what did Bank of America do? It apparently gave mortgage mods to some (many?) of the people who had complained to state officials and had them sign an agreement not to say anything about the deal or disparage Bank of America. Per Bloomberg:

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Yes, Virginia, Servicers Lie to Investors Too: $175 Billion in Loan Losses Not Allocated to Mortgage Backed Securities (and Another $300 Billion on the Way)

he structured credit analytics/research firm R&R Consulting released a bombshell today, and it strongly suggests that prevailing prices on non-GSE (non Freddie and Fannie) residential mortgage backed securities, which are typically referred to as “private label” are considerably overvalued.

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Tom Ferguson on SOTU: New Financial Fraud Commision Could Actually Slow Down Investigations

Political scientist Tom Ferguson agreed with our dim take of the news reports last night on the formation of a “new” financial fraud commission on mortgage abuses (which is actually just part of an existing fraud commission that has done squat). He also saw the apparent co-optoins of New York’s Eric Schneiderman as an effort to rein in the attorneys general that oppose the mortgage settlement.

If you are concerned and skeptical as I am, PLEASE write or call Schneiderman’s office. While it is unlikely to derail this particular train, it does not hurt Schneiderman know that you recognize this as a likely Faustian bargain.

Reader DS sent this note as an example:

Dear Atty General Schneiderman,

Having admired the integrity with which you have supported the rule of law
related to Wall St shenanigans and the mortgage crisis, I find it deeply distressing to read the following:

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/01/is-schneiderman-selling-out-signs-up-to-co-chair-committee-designed-to-undermine-defectors-to-mortgage-settlement-deal.html

I hope/trust that you will not ‘sell out’.

You can call Schneiderman’s office at 800-771-7755 or send a message via this page.

To the Ferguson interview:

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