Posted on 13 November 2011.
I have mixed emotions on this one because I am seeing California teeter totter, not sure of the outcome. As Matt Stoller wrote about AG Kamala Harris Network:
she shares them with President Obama, who endorsed her late in 2010 for the AG office. Her brother-in-law, Tony West, was key fundraiser for Obama in California, having helped raise $65 million for Obama in the state, and he is considered a rising star in the Democratic Party. He now works at the DOJ and has expanded the Civil Rights department to take on some elements of mortgage fraud. The DOJ has an internal directive to make mortgage fraud a top priority, but what mortgage fraud means to the DOJ are mortgage modification scams and penny ante borrowers ripping off fly-by-night lenders. West, while not the direct actor in the DOJ’s settlement talks, is in all likelihood involved in pressure on state AGs to sign on to a settlement. And it’s simply inconceivable he hasn’t dealt with his sister-in-law and political ally on the matter. Harris and West are part of a coherent political network, and much of the strength of that network has to do with reinforcing the traditional bank-friendly policies of the Democratic elite and then using that to create political support.
The first indication that as California AG Harris was more sympathetic to the Obama side of the ledger on banking is that one of her first decisions as AG was to let off Angelo Mozilo without admitting to wrong-doing or personally paying a fine (the small money that went to restitution came from Bank of America shareholders). I suspect the issue is actually more personal to her than legal, not because she particularly cares about finance or foreclosures, but because her friends and allies are very concerned about ensuring that the banks get a release. In their view, this will cause the housing market to clear, the economy to recover, and then help reelection chances.
The political problem for Harris is that she was elected by liberal votes, and she’s getting enormous public pressure to resist signing on to a settlement that is perceived as favorable to the banks. While she backed out of an immediate settlement a few weeks ago, she refused to join the joint investigation by Eric Schneiderman and Beau Biden of the foreclosure fraud crisis. She has sat on the sidelines, trying to figure out what to do.
Appeal-Democrat has a different view-
There is no three-strikes law for crooked bankers, not even a law for a fifth strike, as The New York Times reported in the case of Citigroup, cited last month in a $1 billion fraud case. Unlike the California third-striker I once wrote about whom a district attorney wanted banished forever to state prison for stealing a piece of pizza from the plate of a person dining outdoors, Citigroup executives get off with a fine and by offering a promise not to do it again, and again and again.
As the Times reported when Citigroup agreed to settle SEC charges last month: “Citigroup’s main brokerage subsidiary, its predecessors or its parent company agreed to not violate the very same antifraud statue in July 2010. And in May 2006. Also as far back as March 2005 and April 2000.”
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