Stoller on Obama, Wall Street, and Fraud

Matt Stoller has another great piece in Politico on the criminal behavior of the mortgage industry and the failures of the Obama administration to prosecute these crimes.

President Barack Obama has argued, as recently as last Sunday on “60 Minutes,” that what happened on Wall Street wasn’t criminal. “Some of the most damaging behavior on Wall Street,” the president told Steve Kroft, “in some cases, some of the least ethical behavior on Wall Street, wasn’t illegal. That’s exactly why we had to change the laws.”

Obama is wrong. Fraud was illegal before the crisis; it’s illegal now. The Servicemember Civil Relief Act was signed in 2003. So it was already on the books. During the savings and loan crisis, the George H.W. Bush administration sent about 3,000 white-collar criminals to jail. This administration has yet to send one.

And it is for lack of trying. Attorney General Eric Holder and his network of U.S. attorneys haven’t brought one criminal suit on illegal military foreclosures or foreclosure fraud. There have been enough books and investigations revealing rampant criminality in the housing bubble and now in foreclosure crisis. Yet Holder’s DOJ is still settling with banks to let them off the hook for illegal foreclosures on active duty troops.

Stoller goes on:

The housing bubble, in other words, was not just due to tragic herding behavior. It also involved the financial sector’s aggressive responses to democratic attempts to rein in creditor abuses. Now Ally, a bank 74 percent owned by taxpayers and controlled by the administration, is continuing this abusive trend.

Turning our markets into playpens for predatory behavior didn’t happen overnight, and it will not be fixed overnight. But until we have public servants strongly focused on justice for all, we can expect the crime spree to go on. After all, what we’re all learning is that, at least for large banks, crime pays.

It’s really hard to properly capture how great the failure of the Obama administration to hold banks responsible for breaking the law is to changing bank behavior and helping homeowners today.

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