It is a hard thing to have to concede that the banks have come out on top and that the government now does what the banks want rather than what The People need and want. It is a sad, sad day and I am in mourning for what might have been. The more frauds that occur, the fewer the prosecutions.
Here are excerpts from the message of William K. Black:
Holder & Obama's Propaganda is "Belied by a Troublesome Little Thing Called Facts"
By William K. Black - New Economic Perspectives
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I write to add several cautions.
1. There is no reason for granting any civil immunity on mortgage origination or securitization frauds and the grant of even limited immunity for such frauds can only create future problems.
2. The state AGs do not have the resources to investigate mortgage origination fraud. It isn’t even close. Collectively, the 50 state AGs could investigate Countrywide’s frauds if they took every investigator with expertise in financial institutions and assigned them to the case for five years.
3. The state AGs are not investigating mortgage origination fraud by major lenders.
4. The new working group will not investigate mortgage origination fraud. Obama described the task force in these words in his SOTU address.
“And tonight, I am asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.”
The working group will not “investigate … abusive lending” and it will not “hold accountable those who broke the law … [by defrauding] homeowners.” It will not “speed assistance to homeowners.” It will not “turn the page on an era of recklessness” – and fraud, not “recklessness” is what prosecutors should prosecute. The name of the working group makes its crippling limitations clear: the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group. Attorney General Holder’s memorandum about the working group makes clear that the name is not misleading. The working group will deal only with mortgage backed securities (MBS) – not the fraudulent mortgage origination that drove the crisis (the only exception is federally insured mortgages).
Fraudulent mortgage originators engaged in fraudulent sales of the mortgages, mostly to Wall Street and, eventually, Fannie and Freddie. As I stressed earlier, the administration is continuing to grant de facto immunity to CEOs at the large lenders whose massive mortgage origination frauds drove the crisis. The working group’s mandate helps confirm the administration’s continued refusal to prosecute elite mortgage origination fraud.
5. The working group is a symbolic political gesture designed to neutralize criticism of the administration’s continuing failure to hold accountable the elite frauds that drove the crisis. Neither the Bush nor the Obama administration has convicted a single elite fraud that drove the crisis. This is a national disgrace and represents the triumph of crony capitalism. Remember that the FBI warned in September 2004 that there was an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud and predicted that it would cause a financial “crisis.” There are no valid excuses for the Bush and Obama administrations’ failures. The media have begun to pummel the Obama administration for its failure to prosecute. The administration could not answer this criticism with substance because it has nothing substantive to offer in prosecuting elite mortgage origination frauds. The ugly truth is that we are three full years into his presidency and Holder could not find a single indictment to bring that Obama could brag about in his SOTU address. Who doubts that Holder and Obama would have done so if they had anything in the prosecutorial pipeline? Why do Holder and Obama have nothing in the pipeline? There are three fundamental problems, and the working group has not even addressed, much less resolved, any of the three fundamental defects.
One, criminal prosecutions of elite financial criminals have to come from investigations initiated by those with the expertise and resources to detect and investigate “accounting control fraud” (the form of fraud that can hyper-inflate financial bubbles and cause catastrophic losses and financial crises). Only the federal banking regulators have this capability. The absolute essential to achieving broad success is superb criminal referrals from those regulators. The central difficulty with such referrals should be that roughly 75% of the fraudulent mortgage loans were made by entities not regulated by the federal (or state) banking regulators. They were primarily made by mortgage bankers. Sadly, that did not prove to be the central difficulty with federal banking regulators’ criminal referrals. The federal banking regulators essentially ceased making criminal referrals last decade.
Banks will not file criminals against their CEOs – the people who run the accounting control frauds that produced the epidemics of mortgage fraud. Police and detectives do not investigate elite accounting control frauds. The FBI does not patrol a beat. Unless the regulatory cops on the beat (e.g., the banking regulators) make the criminal referrals the DOJ and the FBI will never investigate or prosecute the fraud. Indeed, because accounting control fraud is inherently complex and requires specialized knowledge to recognize, the DOJ will rarely recognize accounting control fraud even when the facts are only consistent with accounting control fraud (as opposed to bad luck or optimism). Absent high quality criminal referrals from the banking regulatory agencies, DOJ may have episodic successes but it will fail utterly to prosecute any epidemic of elite accounting control fraud. Criminal referrals provide the road map that allows effective investigations and prosecutions.
Two, DOJ has not provided remotely enough resources to investigate the large accounting control frauds. Three, DOJ has adopted a self-serving definition of mortgage fraud that implicitly defines accounting control fraud out of existence. DOJ has violated the central rule of investigating elite white-collar crime – if you don’t look; you don’t find.
We have forgotten the successes of the past. During the S&L debacle, Congress responded to the S&L crisis, once the presidentially-ordered cover up of the scope of the crisis ended in 1989, by ordering and funding a dramatic increase in DOJ resources dedicated to prosecuting the S&L accounting control frauds that drove the second phase of the debacle. President Bush (II), President Obama, and Congress have each failed to emulate the policies that proved so successful in prosecuting elite frauds that caused prior crises. DOJ and the S&L regulators made the prosecution of the elite frauds a top priority by their deeds as well as their words.
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The Obama and Bush administrations have consistently failed to “pursu[e] any and all leads.” Let us count the ways DOJ has typically failed to pursue leads against the elite officers whose frauds drove this crisis: they have not used grand juries, they have not issued civil subpoenas, they have not used electronic surveillance, they have not used undercover investigators, they have not “wired” cooperating witnesses who they have “flipped”, they have not appealed for whistleblowers to come forward, they have not called elite witnesses before grand juries, they have not convened grand juries, they have not sent FBI agents to their homes or offices to conduct formal interviews, they have not retained expert witnesses or consultants with expertise in accounting control fraud, they have not demanded that the banking regulatory agencies produce high quality criminal referrals, they have not asked those agencies to “detail” examiners and other skilled staff to the FBI to serve as internal experts, they have not trained AUSAs, special agents, and banking regulators in how to detect, investigate and prosecute accounting control frauds, they have not prosecuted where other federal agencies, after investigation, have charged that financial elites committed fraud, and they have not flipped intermediate officers and gone up the chain of command, they have not assigned remotely adequate staff to investigate and prosecute frauds, they have not assigned any meaningful number of their staff to investigate the elite frauds, and they have not made strong, consistent demands that Congress fund adequate staff to end the ability of financial elites to commit fraud with impunity. Conversely, DOJ has assigned its inadequate staff almost exclusively to non-elite mortgage fraud, has formed a “partnership” with the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) – the trade association of the “perps”, and has adopted the MBA’s absurd “definition” of mortgage fraud that implicitly defines accounting control fraud out of existence. How does Holder expect to get “leads” against elite frauds when he gets no criminal referrals from the banking regulatory agencies, “defines” the leading fraud perpetrators of mortgage fraud as the “victim” of mortgage fraud, conducts no credible investigation of elite frauds, takes no proactive steps to investigate (e.g., using undercover FBI investigations), makes no plea for whistleblowers to come forward with evidence on the elite frauds, and provides training for regulators, FBI agents, and AUSAs that implicitly denies the existence of accounting control fraud? I understand that he inherited a disaster and a disgrace from his predecessor, but he has made it worse.
Collectively, the Bush and Obama administration have provided de facto impunity from the criminal laws for our largest financial firms and their elite officers who drove our crisis. DOJ has had episodic successes against financial elites not involved in creating the crisis (e.g., Madoff and a prominent insider trader). These “successes” were bittersweet. Madoff conducted a Ponzi scheme that last for decades. DOJ only learned about the scheme because Madoff confessed to his family. He only confessed because the Ponzi scheme was about to collapse. The government learned of the insider trading through a whistleblower and found key facts through electronic surveillance and “wiring” “flipped” participants in the insider trading. The insider trading fraud went on for many years and likely would have gone on for many more years without the government learning of it but for the whistleblower. Both of these frauds were elite financial control frauds, so it is bizarre that Holder simultaneously takes credit for their successful prosecution while implicitly denying that control fraud could exist in elite financial institutions in the mortgage fraud context.
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Read the entire essay here