Memo to Schneiderman Mortgage Task Force: When You are in a Hole, Quit Digging

The much ballyhooed mortgage task force seems to be hewing to the Obama play book of believing that any problem can be solved with better propaganda.

Recall that there has been a great deal of not-very-convincing pushback on the revelation that this initiative has only 50 people working on it, and it’s pretty certain that they are people who were working on existing mortgage-related investigations in various Federal agencies that are simply now reporting to the task force.

The latest tidbit, per Reuters (hat tip Matt L) appears to prove the critics’ dim views:

In addition to the 50 positions the department previously announced, the DOJ is hiring 10 new assistant U.S. attorneys in districts that include Massachusetts and Colorado, according to job listings on the agency’s website.

The department is also hiring five financial analysts and auditors to help understand and identify evidence, the official, who declined to be named, said.

It is also focused on civil laws, including a little-used federal statute called FIRREA, which may make such cases easier to bring.

So we have yet to be completed incremental staffing of a grand total of 15? 65 people pursuing to the biggest consumer fraud in American history, when the savings & loan crisis had 1000 FBI agents tasked to it?

The worst is the insulting five financial analysts. Tell me how “financial analysts” are supposed to get up to speed on securitization. There aren’t that many people who are experts who are willing to educate people going against the banks, and I’d bet big money that the Feds won’t be able to hire anyone of that caliber (they’d make more doing expert witness gigs).

But an even worse sign, the task force appears to be shunning assistance from that very sort of expert. One colleague reported that he has spoken to attorneys who said they were involved with the Schneiderman task force. He has argued that many of the SEC cases filed as civil suits, such as the Goldman and Citigroup CDO cases, could have been brought as criminal cases. Two months ago, they were very eager to speak with him. They’ve since gone radio silent.

Why? The excuse through the grapevine is that the failed Bear Stearns prosecutions show it’s just too hard to prevail on criminal charges. Bollocks. Those suits were badly conceived. The SEC relied on what it thought was decisive evidence in various e-mails. It failed to do enough discovery (critically, enough in the way of depositions of the targets) to find out that the e-mails didn’t necessarily tell the whole story. Those suits failed due to lazy, hasty preparation, and probably also to poor choice of target (the Bear Stearns funds were investors, and thus in many ways victims more than perps).

The real reason is that the Administration has absolutely no interest in pulling hard on the fraud thread and seeing what it unravels. This is an election year and the banks are one of the very biggest donor groups, second only to health care. Obama’s policy is not to look back, and Geithner last week repeated the official mantra that the banks were just hoist on their own petard. How convenient. From The Hill (hat tip Amanda):

Geithner took things a step further, suggesting that it was primarily human nature, not criminal actions, that caused the crisis.

“Rarely is an actual crime a material source of the damage. This is a tragic thing. I wish it were different,” he said. “You cannot legislate away stupidity and risk-taking and greed and recklessness.”

Funny how we don’t accept “human nature” as an excuse for wife-beating, illegal drug use, statutory rape, or embezzlement. But if you are powerful enough to have a Treasury secretary doing your PR, presumably any conduct goes.

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  1. psychohistorian

    Turbo Timmy needs to boost the pressure in his propaganda engine during our election year.

    We should see steam coming out of his ears by late summer.

    Toot Toot Timmy!

    Lie away the focus on our dysfunctional PRIVATE monetary system.

    1. Glen

      Timmy was recently up in Portland blowing smoke. I’m surprised he still even tries to go out and put lipstick on the Wall St pig, he’s bailing on a possible second term and will without a doubt cash out with Wall St. I guess you can call that the Turbo Timmy Bailout 2.0 – Home Edition.

  2. Conscience of a Conservative

    From the Reuters piece
    According to one of the job postings, the department is looking for attorneys to help investigate “and pursue those responsible for misconduct in the packaging, selling, and valuing of residential mortgage-backed securities and similar financial instruments.”

    If this is in response to Carl Levin’s request to go after EPD offenses, it looks like heel dragging and waiting for statute of limitations to run out.

    1. Conscience of Bain Capital

      A warmonger whom made the most noise a year or so ago, picking up the baton is unlikely. He’s rubbing his hands together over Iran, and other engaging tasks.

      1. JIm A

        Probably true. But origination cases are mostly he said/she said, and at the end of the day, the FB signed the contract. Which means that those cases ARE nigh impossible to prosecute. At least with the securitization cases you have the glaring difference between the prospectii and the loans securitized.

        1. chitown2020

          Jim A…HE SAID/SHE SAID….?? Wheres the legal docs…? They dont have them and they are COMMITTING MORE FELONIES by manufacturing docs AKA ROBOSIGNING to cover up and commit more FELONIES… The Origination Fraud allowed them hide and commit felonies… not hard to prove and MERS allowed them to racketeer..Fraud in the sale of securities is a predicate act of racketeering while allowing fraud to continue in the sale of fraudulent securities is a basis for criminal prosecution under RICO ACT 18 U.S.C. Loan flipping and mail fraud state a cause and are not hard to prove. Behind Where’s the Note? They are hiding felonies and MERS allowed them to commit felony fraud. They are felons.

          1. chitown2020

            ALSO…MERS is not a bank..MERS cannot hold or transfer legal title. But, the mortgage contracts and notes are a nullity because of the ORIGINATION FRAUD..They broke their own legal contract….the PSA’s that govern the securities are very strict about the way the trusts are to be set up. They have 90 days from the closing of the trust to deliver, assign and record their legal lien…THE ASSIGNMENT…There is no legal fix for this and this not being done destroys the tax exempt status of the trust….. The Prospectus governs the servicing of the securities but they were never securitized if they never delivered the MORTGAGES and the NOTES to the trusts ..AKA the LEGAL LIENS…THE LEGAL ASSIGNMENTS…creates the MBS’S and THE SECURITIES…that ORIGINATION FRAUD is actually Securities Fraud and render the mortgages and notes a nullity.

  3. Sandy Sanchez

    ‘Geithner took things a step further, suggesting that it was primarily human nature, not criminal actions, that caused the crisis.’
    All of ’em are saying “let them eat cake”. at this point. And why not? As long as corporate profits go up it’s better to leave one’s behind in the past. Worked pretty good with alleged war crimes and other sordid affairs. Just millions of more foreclosures to tidy up, people to lay off and fire, and we’ll be on our way for another tragic decade.

    1. Up the Ante

      “Geithner took things a step further, suggesting that it was primarily human nature, not criminal actions, that caused the crisis. ”

      That wouldn’t be this stuff, would it?,

      “It is classic propaganda, co-op dissent by acknowledging just enough of the critique to capture and divert it. ”

      These would be the servitors of fascism, ‘pseudo-fascists’, performing the propaganda. Telling us what about their view of life in America, for instance ?

      The banksters are telling us their view of business in America is shot, not worth their time, everybody’s moved to China.
      The servitors serve ? the WTO ?

      1. C

        I hope to god you are wrong about that last bit but I am not surprised if it is. In the end, since the 80’s Wall St. has not specialized in investing in things so much as taking them, taking them apart, and selling the pieces. This was sold to all of us in the 90’s as being good for everyone as we could all just get jobs as corporate lawyers or baristas.

        Now law students are getting jobs at less than a 60% rate even coming from good schools and baristas have degrees.

        The only question is whether they will completely get away with selling off America before we stop them.

  4. Conscience of Bain Capital

    If “investigators” are just sifting through emails, and the conclusion is that it’s just too hard – there are no cops on the beat. The Government’s role therefore, is to aid and abet private industry. Take what TJ said (but leave out the stuff that wasn’t said: destruction, rape, pillage, slavery) :

    “A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement”

  5. Betty Bust

    If you’re Bankster wealthy, you just hire the Task Force and have them investigate you.

    Moving down the class ladder slightly, you’ll still have no problem payin’ the mortgage. You can hire people to read the pesky fine print, and buy the means to fool them into thinking you’re a consumer champion:

    ‘Elizabeth Warren, has had nearly $1 million in joint earnings two of the past four years.’

    1. opie

      They got to him, er… went after him:

      ‘Suddenly, however, the conversations ended, and Miller said he hasn’t spoken with anyone on the task force in two months. But he did get an answer as to why he wasn’t selected—because the working group was afraid of Wall Street.’

  6. Abe, NYC

    “You cannot legislate away stupidity and risk-taking and greed and recklessness.”

    I thought SarbOx was meant to take care about just that. But of course it cannot if it’s not enforced.

    1. Glen

      It’s important to note that Glass-Steagall never made stupidity and risk-taking and greed and recklessness go away, it just made the stupid, greedy and reckless people PAY FOR THEIR MISTAKES. Why we just don’t re-enact Glass-Steagall which was like 36 pages rather than the Dodd-Frank monstrosity which leaves the Fed and SEC free to “enact regulation” is beyond me.

  7. sissy

    My husband works for the city of Portland, he’s the Director of Planning. Sam Adams, the mayor has managed to screw the entire city up and now he’s hired this guy named Tom Miller who told my husband that Managers like him should be fired at will. My husband is at the top of his field and is brilliant. The new mayor will be Eileen Brady, I think her name is, Sam Adams has been exciled and every time Obama came into town the city fathers called Sam and told him not to show up.

    Schneiderman had so much promise and I can only believe at this point is that he is part of the problem, not the solution. Too bad. He could have been a great agent for change, but then so could have Obama. As I like to say from Alan Grayson who I would still vote for president in a heart beat, carry on be strong and above all courage.


    1. psychohistorian

      I am a victim of Sam Adams corruption of the Portland street department. He gave away 750 sq ft of public right of way to beautify a property which further cursed a dead end w/o a turnaround.

      Is the new mayor going to go back and fix all the Sam Adams corruption?

  8. briansays

    the next press release will not recite the increase in task force staff numbers
    they will use percentages
    an in crease of x percent
    sounds better

  9. kms

    rd makes a good point about affordability. As illustrated in the insufficient discovery for bear stearns (discovery is expensive), part of the deregulation machine is starving regulatory budgets so that effective regulation and prosecution is impossible. Imagine trying to find room in your approved budget (on a non top-political-priority issue) for 1000 investigators who understand the intricacies at market rate for their skill set. I wish the whole thing didn’t make me feel so hopeless…

  10. scraping_by

    Timmy was, technically, correct when he said, “You cannot legislate away stupidity and risk-taking and greed and recklessness.”

    The current failure is not primarily in the law, but in the enforcement of the law. Which is an executive branch function; “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”. Which is Timmy and Barry and the rest of the neoliberal grovelers.

    So, points for black letter accuracy. All the statutes in the world won’t mean a thing when the lackeys of criminals are enforcing them.

  11. Enraged

    “Just human nature” huh?

    Well, riots, revolutions, demonstrations, refusing to pay one more cent to banks for mortgage debts they are not owed, students loans they are not owed and any other loan securitized over and over is also “human nature”. Closing all bank accounts and deciding to shun whatever makes your life much, much more miserable is part of human nature. And refusing to pay taxes because… well, they haven’t served the public for years and, as a matter of fact, every single cent sent to government is used to hurt us more and more is also human nature to see to it that what hurts us is eliminated.

    Human nature means doing what we need to survive, individually and as a species. It’s going to blow. no two ways about it. Human nature takes it on the chin until it no longer can. Than, it explodes.

    Human nature means deciding what needs to die and doing what it takes to make it happen. Doesn’t have to be violent or bloody: all we need is to stop feeding what presents an imminent, serious, deadly, chronic or permanent danger to us. Stop feeding the feds, stop feeding the banks. Allow them to simply collapse and vanish. We’ll get there anyway: either because we don’t have any food left to give them (but by then, most of us will have probably perished) or because the very little we have left, we’ll be damned if anyone but out own kids and relatives puts his hand on it.

    320 millions Americans. 290 privately-owned firearms… There’s a reason for that. Has to do with “human nature” too, I’m sure.

  12. Susan the other

    Justice denied narrows and clarifies the alternatives. There are always alternatives.

    1. Observer

      Appointing a task force is what politicians do when they don’t want to actually deal with an issue, but need to appear as if they are. Task forces can study things and make recommendations, but they are rarely binding. It’s an election year and everyone is afraid of upsetting Wall Street lest their donations not be forthcoming.

      1. C

        Agreed, having been on a task force was eye opening about this. The politicians were clearly hoping that the task force would make them look like they cared even though they had no plans to actually listen.

        They often, as in this case with Schneiderman, go the extra mile to staff the task force with people who are not in on the situation so that they can spend their energy on a nothing.

        At the end of the day if anyone who has the job of regulating an industry needs to establish a task force to deal with an egregious failure of the industry then you know that: a) they haven’t been doing their jobs up to this point; and b) don’t plan to do them now either.

  13. JustAnObserver

    “Bollocks” !

    V. rarely hear that over here. Sounds like time’s been usefully spent in BritLand :-).

    Next up for (ancient but still) apt descriptions of all these shenanigans: “A load of old Cobblers”.

  14. Mac

    It seems to me that the first guy who started the mess is the real guilty party.The others were and are doing what folks do of late, “follow the leader whatever others are doing,do that too”.

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