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51 comments

  1. steelhead23

    Good interview, but I feel there’s something missing. Why did almost all AGs buy in? They all know that absent detailed investigation, including discovery, they are buying a pig in a poke, more accurately, they are forgiving sins that have never been confessed. Why? Is it because the banks threatened to tie them in knots until their constituents died or gave up? Did the feds say – if you don’t sign, the president will use his shiny new line item veto to starve your state? What happened that made the holdouts join? I hope Amy reads this so she can ask these kinds of questions. This does not just stink because of the specifics, it stinks organically and I want to know why.

    1. JamesW

      Of course, those questions were answered long ago: they require S&P and the other rating agencies to OK their state and local municipal bonds.

      And we know what happens when they don’t play ball, now, don’t we?

      http://motherjones.com/politics/2008/07/where-credit-due-timeline-mortgage-crisis

      And those states require an infusion of cash, as so many of the major cities are technically bankrupt today.

      One can only peddle so much securitized debt, i.e., hundreds of trillions of dollars of worthless credit derivatives, until super-deleveraging begains.

      The curtailed securtization after the Great Crash, with the Securities Act of 1933; but today after the recent 7-year-ultra-leveraged-bank-run (as in the 1920s), instead of pushback, they resuscitated it in 2009, with a probable half-life this time (3.5 years) most likely crashing in July, 2012.

      Truly, they year to make everyone a neoserf today!

      1. Francois T

        I just cannot wait to see what will the rating agencies and the criminals at the Treasury have to say when big domestic and foreign investors scream a big “FUCK YOU!!” to any future offer of investment in the US real estate market.

        With this settlement (read: selling out while trampling the rule of law Part II) investors stand to lose what? at least a collective 40? 50? 80 billion dollars, if not more. There was Indy Mac, then Countrywide, then this shit. How many times do Obummer and Timmy Gangster think they can screw people like that and not pay the price?

        Moreover, elites in this country had better remember that if the Law won’t provide redress and relief to the true victims, said victims will seek justice by other means. It’s human nature to seek justice…the means used to reach it depend entirely on the degree of fairness provided by the dominant social order.

        Sleep well, oh! Dear Leaders!

    2. nonclassical

      ..perhaps “statute of limitations” was involved is decisions…looked for all the world as though they were running them out-so to give nothing at all…

      1. PL

        Excellent question. When will we know the details, such as was it a carrot or a stick? What demands were dropped during negotiations that might have made for a more palatable settlement? And why?

  2. Javagold

    49 public officials from both gang of thiefs, never all agree on anything…..why this time must be answered !

  3. Conscience of a Conservative

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the little guy is better off with a republican president, not because the republican president cares more, but because he’s more subject to pressure to not do the things that Obama has done. We see this with personal freedoms such as rights of due process and we see this with the foreclosure settlement. I’m sure there are other examples.. Obama’s conduct during his re-election attempt is despicable.

    1. psychohistorian

      Exactly what sort of things that Obama is doing would a republican president not do?….sounds delusional to me.

      I hate the lesser of the evils construct as well as the next but it is a concept we will likely talk a lot about this election year if a 3rd party candidate or so appear.

    2. James

      Actually, that’s exactly right, especially in a highly charged political environment like we have today, for the simple treason that all chief execs are forced to “govern to the center” once actually taking office, no matter how extreme their campaign positions might have been. Numb nuts like Obama can thus be excused for “caving” to far right positions in the interests of “being reasonable” and/or “getting things done,” while far-right conservative hysterics who merely follow through on their positions once elected risk being labeled “extremist,” even though they’re merely following through on what they said they’d do. And vice versa, although that rarely if ever comes into play these days.

      Which calls to mind the logical next step. Why not run a strawman for office in the opposition party who embodies all this strategic thinking ahead of time? Hence, “O.co.” Are you getting it yet?

      1. James

        “for the simple treason that all chief execs are forced to “govern to the center” once actually taking office”

        LOL! Freudian slip indeed!

    3. Binky the Bear

      Funny, my biggest problem with Obama was that he was being like every Republican/Blue Dog president-civil liberties out the window like Bushes and Reagans, concentration of wealth at the expense of the many, gross misfeasance and corruption so blatant that cockroaches and rats would blush.
      Obama 2012! Because the other guy is even more awful. Bongo bongo or Death (by bongo bongo).

      1. James

        My take: Just the opposite. GOP – they could hardly be worse!
        Although, I have to add, the BEST alternative of all is “none of the above;” i.e., DON’T VOTE! BECOME A REFUSENIK!

    4. Neo-Realist

      The problem I have with Republican Presidents is that they select uber corporate fascist judges like Roberts, Alito and Scalia that serve for a generation or more and render draconian decisions/precedents like Citizens United that make the structural oligarchic problems even more difficult for progressives to surmount.

  4. jsmith

    Someone please cite just one example of justice in action in the United States over the last 10 years.

    How about a single instance when the average American citizen was NOT screwed over by TPTB over the last 10 years?

    Anyone? Bueller?

    What I mean to say is how can anyone be considered honest who is asking questions like the above anymore?

    The above was not a dig at Yves in any respect but is meant to really address the false media narrative in the US, the propaganda that tries to paint a picture of a country in which there actually exists even the smallest hint of a chance that any of our “leaders” – civic, political, economic, etc – would EVER do anything to benefit the vast majority of the citizens in this country.

    American propagandists are very subtle and clever at framing decisions the elite make as somehow contigent upon our input or as if there were some benefit to signing on to the decisions who sole goal is their own aggrandizement.

    After the break we’ll talk about the winners and losers of TARP…

    How you can stand to benefit from the recent mortgage settlement…story at 5!

    For more than a decade the popular will has consistently and contemptuously be completely and utterly ignored and ridiculed by our “leaders” be it in the financial sphere, domestically or militarily.

    At this point, everything our government does should be automatically considered to be to the detriment of the vast majority of the US population because in the last 10 years no instances exist to prove otherwise.

    No more debates, no politeness.

    These people need to start being called out onto the carpet as the criminals they are.

    1. JamesW

      One migh sarcastically reply, “Why…Barry Bonds and Martha Stewart, of course, they nailed those two dastardly individuals good!”

      Sadly, we live in a completely lawless land, where predatory jurisprudence accompanied by predatory legislation are the only operable “laws” anymore; the directives from the economic elites.

      Awhile back, a legal complaint was filed against the two major legal database operators in North America — made the foreign press, but nary a sound heard in the monolithic corporate myth-media.

      When they are screwing around with the legal precedents online, to “create” the law in real-time, they really don’t care whether the curtain is drawn exposing the “wizard” for what he really is, a colossal fraud.

      And people haven’t even gleaned absolute underlying sham to everything; the interlocking thievery from securitized student loans, funded into senior exec’s pay and bennies and perks, along with all those phantom pension funds, disappearing, ostensibly into the ether, when a company is sold to another, whereby they are then shut down, in order to capture the pension assets and surplus, and then do the asset stripping of the rest.

      Off-balance and out of sight. The bywords of Corporate Amerika. Labor arbitrage, and labor deflation.

      When the Obama Administration will actively — and financially — support the overthrow of the democratically elected President Zelaya of Honduras, simply because that populist president wanted to raise the national minimum wage a few pennies, is it any wonder the wholesale attacks on what little remains of collective bargaining throughout America?

      Toast….anyone?

      1. jsmith

        Yup, it is pretty fascinating that the sociopaths still feel the need to actually go about changing the laws before or after they break them even though there doesn’t seem to be much negative inducement to nowadays.

        Gotta dot the i’s, doncha know!

        Seriously, any interview of every business executive, politician or military leader should begin with the question:

        “First, tell us why we shouldn’t consider you a criminal to society given a, b and c…”

        This framing should be de rigueur and if they don’t answer then, gee shucks, we the people are spared another segment of noxious propaganda.

      2. James

        I think CHS nailed this same subject pretty well with today’s post (synchronicity anyone?).


        Self-Interest and the Pathology of Power: the Corruption of America Part 2

        “The Power Elites’ time-honored strategy to protect their own wealth and grip on power has three components: one is to pursue a strategy of pervasive, ceaseless propaganda to persuade the productive classes that the system is sound, fair and working for them; the second is to fund diversionary “bread and circuses” for the potentially troublesome lower classes, and the third is to harden the fiefdoms of power and wealth into an aristocracy that is impervious to the protests of debt-serfs and laborers below.

        In addition to “the system is working for you” social control myth, the wealth/power aristocracy also invokes various fear-based social control myths: external enemies are threatening us all, so ignore your debt-serfdom and powerlessness, etc.

        In the ideal Power Elite scenario, a theocracy combines faith and State: not only is it illegal to resist the Aristocracy, you will suffer eternal damnation for even thinking about it.”

        I would have said it myself if not for the fact that Charles has – once again – said it better first.

      1. jsmith

        Just looking at the Wikipedia listing is pretty interesting:

        So,let’s see:

        Number of noteworthy accounting scandals in 2012: 23

        Nubmer of noteworthy accounting scandals since: 11 including a period of ZERO during the years 2007-9!!!

        Although I know the list isn’t complete a cursory examination would lend one to think that something has happened over the last 9 years, huh?

        Thanks for link, if I could I’d go back and change my original post to read:

        Someone please cite more than 11 examples of justice in action in the United States over the last 9 years. ;)

        1. jsmith

          Ooops, I guess I was projecting. My response should have read:

          So,let’s see:

          Number of noteworthy accounting scandals in 2002: 23

          Nubmer of noteworthy accounting scandals since: 11 including a period of ZERO during the years 2007-9!!!

          Although I know the list isn’t complete a cursory examination would lend one to think that something has happened over the last 9 years, huh?

          Thanks for link, if I could I’d go back and change my original post to read:

          Someone please cite more than 11 examples of justice in action in the United States over the last 9 years. ;)

        1. ZadoofkaFlorida

          Totally agree, and have agreed since the time this happened. Spitzer was then gone, Grasso got his money reinstated.

          1. tawal

            Even if Grasso’s stealth investigation into Spitzer’s habits cost a cool million, then I guess it was well worth it!

      2. Max424

        Spitzer had sex with a Harlot Woman (or was she a scarlet woman? I can’t remember which).

        He also had sex with his socks on. If you are an American elected official, this is the greatest crime you can commit (not so much the socks part, of course, which turned out to be … mostly immaterial … but the scarlet, harlot thing).

        Now if Spitzer had aided and abetted and/or led a great financial crime syndicate, or drone/slaughtered (maybe) guilty and innocent lifeforms alike; or assassinated without due process US citizens, just because he plain didn’t like ‘em; he would would’ve been feted, toasted, and Dean Martin-style roasted for the rest of his born days.

    2. nonclassical

      ..therefore Adam Curtis’ “Trilogy”…(“Century of Self”, “The Trap”, “The Power of Nightmares”)

    3. jake chase

      This is not a development of the last ten years. It has been going on since at least 1965, when LBJ, the peace candidate, marched my generation into Vietnam to generate profits for Haliburton and Bell Helicopter, the gangs which had made him in the first place. It goes back to 1913, when Woodrow Wilson, Morgan’s stooge, pushed through the income tax, the Fed (1914) and WWI. Historians will recall that Wilson was reelected in 1916 because he “kept us out of war”. Andrew Jackson, history’s heavyweight champion democrat, was the tool of state banking interests. Government is a three card monte swindle every single time. I challenge anyone to name a single federal initiative since 1940 which was not orchestrated for the benefit of some business interest. Individuals have no choice but to develop strategies to protect themselves. Wasting time choosing between stooge candidates from major parties is a complete waste of time.

    4. Lloyd C. Bankster

      jssmith: “Someone please cite just one example of justice in action in the United States over the last 10 years.”

      Here’s one.

      “A homeless man robbed a Louisiana bank and took a $100 bill. After feeling remorseful, he surrendered to police the next day. The judge sentenced him to 15 years in prison.”

      http://digitaljournal.com/article/265402

  5. spacecabooie

    Does the settlement now, going forward, endorse the practices, all of the less-than-savory practices, only previous occurances of which the banks are settling in this settlement ? In other words, are the banks being granted the freedom in this settlement to continue foreclosing in accordance with the process that they are paying a penalty for now, i.e., are they paying for past and future occurances ? The distinction is obviously meaningful, and yet every pulished description of the settlement omits any clarification regarding the distinction, stating generally soemthing on the order of “the settlement is for foreclosure practices”, not past foreclosure practices, nothing indicating a prohibition, nor lock down enforcement, against those practices going forward. MERS can continue to be used ? Illegal fees can still be added to the balance ? Assignments do not have to proven to be valid ?

  6. Gene

    Many on these sites refer to “banksters”, criminals, etc. as those who have perpetrated this fraud. I’m not sure you realize how close to the truth you really are.

    The field of Industrial/Organizational Psychology (IO) has played in instrumental role in corporate hiring, tasked to find not only the brightest talent, but specifically the brightest who have no conscience. This is not a new phenomenon. There have been many studies over the years that compared the profiles of corporate executives with criminals deemed “psychopathic”. There has always been a consistent overlap (see Hervey Cleckley and most recently Robert Hare).

    At the request of businesses, IO psychologists developed tests to measure psychopathy. I would say those psychologists did exactly what was asked of them: they designed instruments to identify candidates who are intelligent, ambitious, and devoid of empathy, conscience, or morality.

    1. James

      See HBO’s (Time Warner’s) The Wire. A fascinating study in corporate/criminal gang psychology if there ever was one. AND, the best show ever produced for mass TV consumption to boot! Imagine that!

  7. Midnight Stalker

    Obama’s photo-op with the marshmallow launcher, invented by a young student and put on display at the Whitehouse on Wednesday, was a very fitting graphic, as Obama launched the equivalent of marshmallow marshmallow barbs at the gangster bankers. I guess it’s better than shooting blanks.

    What are our choices? I say that we throw out whomever is in office after their very first term to limit the damages wreaked on the nation’s serfs.

  8. Brooklin Bridge

    Matt Taibbi has admitted he was wrong in his swallow the hook, line and sinker article of the 28th. I’m impressed. Although his article, left out there for so long, facilitated the sellout and the stealth bailout of 2nd liens Yves talks about — because let’s face it Taibbi exerts considerable influence (and commands the sort of respect schneiderman once did long long ago, indeed, as far back as yesterday) — it still takes a lot to write a public mea culpa.

    1. James

      Although, let’s finally admit it already, public figures are NOT gonna in the end help bring this mother down. In the end, Taibbi’s yet another miserable hack forced to play by the rules of the mothership in order to gain access. A valuable contribution? YOU BET! Nonetheless, where will the FINAL DECISIVE blows come from? From those who don’t recognize the “rules” in the first place.

  9. run75441

    Yves:

    It is a plea bargain. The AG gets the notch on their guns and the banks walk away unharmed and on probation. Get it?

  10. barrisj

    Well, any so-called “settlement” involving TBTF banks and their abettors, where “INVESTORS” cheered the actual wording as concerns any liabilities faced by the Big Five has to be looked at as a capitulation to the rentier class, and, well, WTF, who expected otherwise, hmmmm? THE BEAT GOES ON, PEOPLE, LISTEN TO IT.

  11. spacecabooie

    Still repeatedley slinging DeMarco under the bus … the following appears on the one-stop-shopping website with evolving descriptions of the settlement implications for homeowners (http://www.nationalmortgagesettlement.com/faq):

    “Q: A majority of mortgages are unaffected by this settlement. When will you work to obtain relief for the vast majority of homeowners?

    A: This settlement primarily affects mortgages that are owned and held by the nation’s largest bank servicers. Those homeowners may receive benefits such as modifications, principal reductions or direct payments from lenders.

    Two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, control a majority of the nation’s mortgage loans. GSE loans are not eligible for parts of this settlement because of positions their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Administrator (FHFA), has taken.”

    Post – Partisan – Presidency anyone ?

    Somewhere else in there are two tidbit, for collaterally-damaged homeowners who aren’t being serviced by the settling banks, and therefore get none of the settlement relief, one in the form a statement of HOPE that the setting banks’ use of principle reductions, etc. will demonstrate to non-settling banks the value they can derive from the practice, and another tidbit describing how new settlement talks are being started with yet more banks.

    For the official response to the claim that investors will be taking the hit:

    “The settlement mostly impacts the Held for Investment (HFI) market, which encompasses loans held by the banks that service the loans. The mortgages, penalties and financial commitments associated with this settlement are funded primarily by the banks, not third-party investors. HUD estimates that HFI mortgages comprise 20 percent of the U.S. mortgage market.”

  12. kravitz

    ZeroHedge

    Bank Of America Details The Mortgage Foreclosure Settlement
    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/bank-america-details-mortgage-foreclosure-settlement

    “77% of settlement commitments are non-cash ($19.1bn)”

    “Cash costs ($5.9bn) are manageable”

    “Noncompliance will be costly”

    “The scope of the settlement is not broad
    Although the settlement resolves certain violations of civil law, the US and state attorneys general preserved the right for further legal action in the following areas:
    • Criminal. The US and the state attorneys general can still pursue criminal enforcement actions
    • Securities claims. The agreement does not prevent the US from pursuing action against the banks related to misrepresentations of the quality of loans that were packaged into MBS or the conduct that is the focus of the new Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group. The states have also preserved their rights to bring actions related to securitization activities and MERS.
    • Loan Origination claims. The US retains its full authority to recover losses (and assess penalties) caused to the federal government when a bank failed to satisfy underwriting standards on a government-insured or government-guaranteed loan with certain exceptions.
    • Borrower claims. The settlement does not prevent any claims by individual borrowers who wish to bring their own lawsuits.”

    1. aet

      Lots of room left for further enforcement….if the proper people get (re-)elected. But not otherwise.

      Vote!!

  13. C

    My vote is that it will hinder it but only in part because of the fact that the focus will shift to things that are easier to weasel out of such as who knew what when. Indeed Donavan today explained their intentions nicely when he said:

    “It wasn’t the servicing practices that created the bubble, nor caused its collapse,” Donovan said. “It was the origination and securitization of these horrendous products.”

    While on some level that might be literally true, if you squint hard enough, the institutions being let off today were involved in that practice and abetted it with MERS and the robo-signing. More importantly they gave up one of the best vehicles for discovery, a civil lawsuit by state parties. So definitely hurt.

    See: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/02/09/bloomberg_articlesLZ52WQ1A1I4H01-LZ5GO.DTL

  14. LAS

    Excellent interview, Yves.

    What’s interesting to me the last few days is that average people across the USA do not seem (on average) to buy the administration PR about the deal. They, too, think this deal stinks! They may not have the same understanding of the situation as you, but they do not buy the premise that it’s a good deal. Many people are outraged.

  15. Lloyd C. Bankster

    jssmith: “Someone please cite just one example of justice in action in the United States over the last 10 years.”

    Responded to this above but may have provided a broken link.

    “A homeless man robbed a Louisiana bank and took a $100 bill. After feeling remorseful, he surrendered to police the next day. The judge sentenced him to 15 years in prison.”

    http://www.ktbs.com/news/23350821/detail.html

  16. Brooklin Bridge

    In interviews, Schneiderman has been making it more and more clear that his noises and cage rattling were simply doing Obama’s bidding until the re-election campaign needed his instant 180 degree turnaround/sellout/capitulation. In an interview with Greg Sargent,

    “He [Obama] took ownership of this [bank bailout/commission fiasco],” said Schneiderman, “Sometimes people on the left have to take yes for an answer.”

    This is Schneiderman’s version of, “… f**king retards on the left should take a shower and get a job.

  17. b.

    Help or hindrance? It should be simple to decide, no?

    If the banks sign off on having these lawsuits, then either Big O has promised them to find a different way – MERS codification, FISA-style retroactive amnesty – to render them pointless, or they are pointless to begin with. Either way, it is a fig leaf for the AGs in question to maintain voter cred. Only if the banks refuse the deal can it be assumed that the suits *might* not be pointless. As the meta-game is always “run the clock” – as they say, there will be another pig rampaging through the village tomorrow – it is iompossible to tell until an actual judge hands down actual sentences not appealed.

  18. Pitchfork

    I guess it’s fair to call Jay’s program “The Real News” — especially when you get garbage reporting like this:

    “Mortgage deal: What the critics say” [I was expecting Yves Smith to be quoted -- alas, no]

    “Conservatives called it overreaching on the part of the Obama administration, and say it rewards homeowners who haven’t been paying their home loans.

    Some liberal groups say it falls far short of providing the needed level of help to troubled homeowners hurt by the housing bubble, problems they blame on Wall Street banks and investors. They want more relief for homeowners who owe more than their home is now worth, also known as being underwater on a mortgage.”

    Pitchfork here… So there you have it — the “conservatives” are worried about Obama-the-socialist controlling the banks and “liberals” just want more money for deadbeat borrowers. No mention of second liens or the ability to modify mortgages the banks don’t even own or the fact that Fannie and Freddie (i.e. the taxpayer) will eat these losses. And no mention (natch) of anyone going to jail.

    Total. Garbage. Reporting. BTW, the reporter’s name is Chris Isidore.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      It’s difficult to grasp just how much of a “route” this is on our system of government as well as on our system of law. No one is coming to the rescue.

      This little drama in geological terms is the equivalent of secondary strikes by pieces of the meteorite.

    2. aet

      How is classifying other people by the views you ascribe to them (conservative or liberal)any different than classing people by the race or ethnicity you assign them?

      Doesn’t this incessant “lib/con”-split framing of all debates by the US media – and picked up by those who follow that media’s lead – only serve to introduce something like the dynamic of the intractable racialist/ethnic political divisions of old Europe, or of what was once the territories of the Ottoman mid-east, or even something of the flavor of the tribal rivalries/politics of Africa, into the domestic politics of the USA?

      And how could that be a beneficial development?

      Isn’t everybody in the same boat?

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