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CREDO Calls Out Securitization Fraud Task Force: Investigators Not Even Deployed

news.firedoglake.comApr 9, 2012

By David Dayen

CREDO, the online progressive organizing group, alleges in a new email to supporters that the Justice Department has not delivered the promised (and paltry) number of 55 staff members to the RMBS working group, the task force co-chaired by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate the mortgage securitization practices of the leading banks.

We have heard very little from that task force since it was inaugurated in January, and CREDO has become the first progressive group to come forward with their concerns. But more is coming. This is the kickoff of a pressure campaign among several groups, querying the Administration in public about what was described to me last week as “the case of the missing task force.”

CREDO starts by asserting that 55 staffers from the Justice Department are not nearly enough to tackle a multi-trillion dollar fraud. Comparable investigations of much smaller financial crises, like the savings and loan scandal or the Enron collapse, have featured investigation staffs that were several orders of magnitude larger.

But the really damning charge is here:

And now we’re hearing from insiders in Washington DC, that the full complement of 55 promised investigators — which is already not nearly enough — haven’t even been deployed to the task force [...]

The 55 investigators promised to the financial crimes task force is not nearly enough. And to find out that President Obama hasn’t delivered on those investigators, let alone resourced the effort at the levels appropriate to the biggest financial fraud in U.S. history, is shocking.

In addition, CREDO alleges that none of the other co-chairs of the task force, including three Administration officials who were already on previous financial fraud task forces that amounted to little, “has done literally anything that achieves our goal of holding banks accountable or prosecuting bankers for criminal activity.”

This matters not just because of broken promises, but because the foot-dragging has serious consequences. Many of the various types of fraud that this task force is supposed to be investigating have statutes of limitations, some of which will run out on the very last securitization deals completed before the housing bubble collapsed. There are several 10-year statutes of limitations, particularly through the federal law FIRREA. But other statutes have a 5-year limit, and the last deals were made in 2007. So this looks suspiciously like running out the clock.

The Administration obviously must answer these charges, and I’ll try to get some clarity on that today. But Eric Schneiderman’s office needs to also speak up. Schneiderman and his staff said specifically that they would walk from the task force if they felt it wasn’t living up to the promises made to him in terms of resources and will. We’re only three months in, but that looks exactly like what’s happening. If there are bad actors blocking investigations, Schneiderman needs to say it, as he vowed to do.

When the coalition seeking accountability from the banks acquiesced to a settlement on foreclosure fraud with the hope that this task force would bring the investigations, prosecutions and relief needed, they said that election-year pressures would force something real to come about. That has proven so far to be a chimera. We shall see if they can elevate the issue again, with less leverage thanks to the settlement’s completion.

The entire letter from CREDO is below.

Dear David,

Back in January, President Obama announced during the State of the Union speech the creation of a new financial crimes task force to investigate the crimes and misdeeds that led to the economic collapse and “hold accountable those who broke the law.”

Yet, despite the enormity of the issue, its direct impact on millions of Americans and the widespread nature of crimes and wrongdoing, the new financial crime unit has been allocated a paltry 55 staff members to undertake this enormous task.

And now we’re hearing from insiders in Washington DC, that the full complement of 55 promised investigators — which is already not nearly enough — haven’t even been deployed to the task force.

Election year promises aren’t nearly enough. President Obama needs to prove his commitment to the financial crimes task force is real and provide the task force with the resources it needs to investigate Wall Street criminals.

Tell President Obama: 55 investigators are not enough. We need 20 times more staffing to launch a real investigation into Wall Street’s crimes. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

After the much smaller savings and loan scandal of the ’80s approximately 1,000 FBI agents and dozens of federal prosecutors were assigned to prosecute related cases. And 100 FBI agents were tasked with investigating the Enron scandal, which involved just one company and caused none of the economy-wide damage we’ve seen since the collapse of the housing bubble.

The 55 investigators promised to the financial crimes task force is not nearly enough. And to find out that President Obama hasn’t delivered on those investigators, let alone resourced the effort at the levels appropriate to the biggest financial fraud in U.S. history, is shocking.

President Obama’s record on Wall Street accountability is abysmal. But because of enormous grassroots pressure from activists like you and polling that suggests he needs to take on Wall Street as a part of his election campaign, we have a real opportunity to move President Obama to meaningful action on Wall Street accountability. Time, however, is running out.

President Obama’s first task force at the Department of Justice did little if anything to prosecute Wall Street for crimes that led to the financial crisis. But because of your activism, he announced a new task force and named progressive champion and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman one of its five co-chairs.

Now we need to pressure the White House to give that task force the resources it needs to pursue justice. Without sufficient staff to conduct thorough investigations, it’s hard to see how this task force could bring indictments quickly or even before statutes of limitations run out.

Tell President Obama: 55 investigators are not enough. We need 20 times more staffing to launch a real investigation into Wall Street’s crimes. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

The economic crisis we’re in demands a response commensurate with the damage done by Wall Street crooks. But the 55 promised investigators don’t even come close to being adequate. If the White House hasn’t even followed through on its promise of a paltry 55 investigators, it’s clear that massive pushback is needed to get the level of staffing we truly need to bring Wall Street criminals to justice.

Aside from the appointment of Attorney General Schneiderman, none of the other co-chairs of the new task force has done literally anything that achieves our goal of holding banks accountable or prosecuting bankers for criminal activity.

In fact, three of his co-chairs served on the earlier failed Department of Justice task force that the new investigation was created to supersede.

In an election year when we know the Obama reelection campaign wants to frame his race as opposing the candidate of the one percent, President Obama will be particularly sensitive to public perception of whether his efforts to hold Wall Street accountable are meaningful and represent the full force of his office.

Tell President Obama: 55 investigators are not enough. We need 20 times more staffing to launch a real investigation into Wall Street’s crimes. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

We want, and our country needs, indictments. The collapse of the housing bubble led directly to the economic crisis we’re in. But not one of the Wall Street crooks who drove our economy off a cliff has gone to jail. And without aggressive investigations and prosecution for misconduct, none of them will.

President Obama needs to give the Department of Justice task force the resources required to launch a serious investigation that will bring about real accountability before the statutes of limitations run out for Wall Street’s crimes.

It’s been months already. We can’t waste any more time. We must act now before we lose our opportunity to do anything significant at all.

Tell President Obama: 55 investigators are not enough. We need 20 times more staffing to launch a real investigation into Wall Street’s crimes. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

Thank you for standing up for Wall Street accountability.


Back to April 2012 Archive

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