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Steven J. Baum settles with NY AG Schneiderman; will pay $4M

Steven J. Baum settles with NY AG Schneiderman; will pay $4M


What about the rest? This is an insult!

Update: Pillar Processing is also part of this settlement.

Buffalo Business First-

The case of embattled foreclosure attorney Steven Baum has taken another turn as the Amherst attorney reached a settlement with the New York State Attorney General over charges his firm mishandled foreclosure filings statewide over many years.

Under terms of the agreement, Baum has agreed not to handle mortgages for two years and will pay a penalty of $4 million.

The deal with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office comes five month after the firm settled with the United States Attorney for the Southern District and paid $2 million while agreeing to drastically overhaul its business practices.

[BUFFALO BUSINESS FIRST]

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Preet Bharara’s toothless bite of Wall Street – Salon

Preet Bharara’s toothless bite of Wall Street – Salon


Time magazine’s favorite federal prosecutor chases the bottom feeders and avoids the sharks

Salon-

Two intriguing magazine cover stories are on the stands this week, on more or less the same topic. New York magazine shows a man clutching between his knees, with the headline: “The Emasculation of Wall Street.” Time’s cover has the impassive puss of Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, and “This Man Is Busting Wall St.”

Seeing these two covers side by side, you’d think that Bharara was Wall Street’s Great Emasculator. The Time article is subtitled “Prosecutor Preet Bharara collars the masters of the meltdown,” while the New York piece describes how the Street is reeling from “a crisis that would not be flip to call existential.” Yet nowhere in Gabriel Sherman’s well-researched piece in New York is there even one mention of Preet Bharara.

There’s a simple reason for that:  Preet Bharara is not busting Wall Street. He’s not collaring the masters of the meltdown. He’s done nothing to even slightly discomfit Wall Street’s still-ferocious money machine, or has yet to bring to justice the architects, enablers and continuers of the 2008 financial crisis — the bankers who got us into that mess, and the ones who are continuing to extract pain from foreclosed homeowners, in the New York area and beyond.

[SALON]

image: Salon

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Feds File Massive Fraud Case Against Allied Home Mortgage

Feds File Massive Fraud Case Against Allied Home Mortgage


by Tracy Weber and Charles Ornstein
ProPublica, Nov. 1, 2011, 5:51 p.m.

Federal prosecutors sued Allied Home Mortgage Capital Corp. and two top executives Tuesday, accusing them of running a massive fraud scheme that cost the government at least $834 million in insurance claims on defaulted home loans.

Houston-based Allied and its founder and chief executive, Jim Hodge, were the subject of July 2010 stories by ProPublica [1], which detailed a trail of alleged misconduct, lawsuits and government sanctions spanning at least 18 states [2] and seven years. Borrowers recounted how they had been lied to by Allied employees, who in some cases had siphoned the loan proceeds for personal gain. Some borrowers lost their homes.

Despite years of warnings, the federal government had not 2014 until this week 2014 impaired the company’s ability to issue new mortgages.

The suit [3], filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, seeks triple damages and civil penalties, which could total $2.5 billion. Simultaneously, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development suspended the company and Hodge from issuing loans [4] backed by the Federal Housing Administration. The company was also barred from issuing mortgage-backed securities through the Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae).

Allied has billed itself as the nation’s largest, privately held mortgage broker, with some 200 branches. (At one point, the company operated more than 600.) The sprawling network made Hodge a rich man [5] with properties in three states and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and two airplanes to get to them.

Allied and Hodge played the “lending industry equivalent of heads-I-win and tails-you-lose,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a news conference Tuesday. “The losers here were American taxpayers and the thousands of families who faced foreclosure because they could not ultimately fulfill their obligations on mortgages that were doomed to fail.”

The government’s complaint alleges that between 2001 and 2010, Allied originated 112,324 home mortgages backed by the FHA, which typically go to moderate- and low-income borrowers. Of those, nearly 32 percent 2014 35,801 2014 defaulted, resulting in more than $834 million in insurance claims paid by HUD.

In 2006 and 2007, the company’s default rate was a “staggering” 55 percent, the complaint said.

In addition, another 2,509 mortgages are currently in default, which could result in another $363 million in insurance claims paid by HUD.

Borrowers told ProPublica last year that company employees falsified records to bolster their credit worthiness and lured them into unaffordable deals by lying about the terms.

The government’s complaint says: “Allied has profited for years as one of the nation’s largest FHA lenders by engaging in reckless mortgage lending, flouting the requirements of the FHA mortgage insurance program and repeatedly lying about its compliance.”

Tuesday’s action against Allied follows criticism that the government has been slow to act on rampant fraud and abuse in the mortgage market. In the case of Allied, the government had reams of evidence of possible misconduct. Among ProPublica’s findings last year:

  • Allied had the highest serious delinquency rate [6] among the top 20 FHA loan originators from June 2008 through May 2010.
  • Nine states had sanctioned the firm from 2009 to mid-2010 for such violations as using unlicensed brokers and misleading a borrower.
  • Federal agencies had cited or settled with Allied or an affiliate at least six times since 2003 for overcharging clients, underpaying workers or other offenses.
  • At least five lenders had sued, claiming Allied tricked them into funding loans for unqualified buyers by falsifying documents and submitting grossly inflated appraisals, among other allegations.

Allied spokesman Joe James said the company was aware of the government lawsuit but had not received a copy of it and could not comment.

Hodge did not return a phone call and email message seeking comment. But last year, he told ProPublica that the problems experienced at some of Allied’s branches should not tarnish his firm’s overall record. “If you look at the volume that we did or do,” he said, “it’s not significant.”

In an interview Tuesday, Helen Kanovsky, HUD’s general counsel, defended the time it took her department to take action.

“We had tried sanctions before,” she said. “We had assessed civil monetary penalties, and that had not worked.

“The extraordinary remedy that we have 2014 to be able to terminate somebody’s FHA capacity [and] basically put them out of business 2014 requires a very high level of evidence and a high level of proof.”

The government’s 41-page lawsuit details an alleged scheme by Allied to deceive HUD about its employees and the risks associated with its loans. For years, it operated a network of “shadow” branches that were not approved by HUD and falsely certified that they met legal requirements.

Allied also disguised the high default rates of some branches, the complaint alleges, by tinkering with their addresses to apply for new HUD identification codes for the same offices. When HUD updated its system to prevent such manipulation, Allied simply moved all of its branches to a sister company and obtained new IDs, “thus again achieving a clean slate on its default rates,” the suit said. The sister firm, Allied Home Mortgage Corp., is also named as a defendant.

Hodge created a “culture of corruption,” the suit said. He “intimidated employees by spontaneous terminations and aggressive email monitoring, and silenced former employees by actual and threatened litigation against them.”

In one case, Hodge instructed his chief information officer to capture the password for the personal email account of Jeanne Stell, the company’s executive vice president and compliance officer. Then he installed an electronic listening device under the information officer’s desk, the complaint alleges.

Allied also was employing felons, including a state manager who had been sentenced to 60 months in prison for distributing methamphetamine, as well as a branch manager running the office under a false name, the suit said.

The government joined a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former Allied branch manager in Massachusetts, Peter Belli. In addition to Allied and Hodge, the suit also names Stell as a defendant.

Belli had filed other suits against Hodge and Allied. He said Tuesday that, while his legal pursuit of his former employer has been long and hard, “I never really ever felt like quitting because I was married to the cause.”

Allied is also facing at least one federal criminal investigation into its now-shuttered Hammond, La., branch. In multiple lawsuits, borrowers allege that the office deceived them from 2005 through 2007 by misrepresenting loan terms, falsifying records, failing to pay off prior mortgages and diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars.

At his news conference, Bharara said Tuesday’s filing was a civil matter and that the investigation into Allied is continuing. “We will go wherever the facts lead us.”

 

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Amherst law firm agrees to pay fine, Settlement involves foreclosure practices

Amherst law firm agrees to pay fine, Settlement involves foreclosure practices


“I am glad the U. S. Attorney completed this phase of the Baum saga and that he is changing his practice,” said New York City attorney Susan Chana Lask

[…]

“I hope homeowners use the settlement to show the courts the foreclosure mill problem was real and damaged a lot of people’s lives. It’s not over.”

I’m almost certain she is referencing that although the US Attorney settled, AG Schneiderman has yet to complete his investigation.

 

Buffalo News

Steven J. Baum PC, the Amherst law firm that has been under heavy fire for its foreclosure practices, agreed Thursday to pay a $2 million fine and “extensively” overhaul its practices in a settlement with the U. S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan that has statewide implications.

The agreement with Baum resolves a federal investigation into whether the state’s largest foreclosure law firm, on behalf of lenders, filed misleading affidavits, mortgage assignments and other documents in state and federal courts.

[BUFFALO NEWS]

image: thetorchtheatre

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In RE: FORECLOSURE FRAUD SETTLEMENT “MERS, Pillar Processing & Steven J. Baum, P.C.”

In RE: FORECLOSURE FRAUD SETTLEMENT “MERS, Pillar Processing & Steven J. Baum, P.C.”


Mortgage Fraud

Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems
Pillar Processing, LLC
Steven J. Baum, P.C.

Action Date: October 7, 2011
Location: New York, NY

On October 6, 2011, a settlement agreement was signed regarding the practices of one of the largest foreclosure mills in the country, Steven J. Baum, P.C., a law firm operating from Amherst, New York. The settlement was obtained by Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of NY. The investigation was conducted by the Civil Frauds Unit of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York which investigated under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (“FIRREA).

Under the settlement, the Baum Firm is required to pay $2 million and make significant reforms, but is still allowed to say (paragraph 4): “This Agreement does not constitute a finding by any Court or Agency that Baum has engaged in any unlawful practice or wrongdoing of any kind.”

Most significantly, Baum employees – including the very prolific robo-signing associate, Elpiniki Bechakas, may no longer sign mortgage assignments as officers of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”). (Bechakas is not specifically named in the Agreement, but has been singled out by NY judges, including the Honorable (and very savvy) Arthur Schack of Brooklyn, as a Baum attorney with very questionable practices.)

The relief provided in the Settlement Agreement is very much prospective relief, and in that regard, is very comprehensive.

For those pending cases, however, the relief in paragraph 15(a) may seem grossly inadequate:

“Baum shall provide the following notification:

a. In any pending foreclosure action where an application for a judgment of foreclosure has not been submitted to a court, if Baum has filed an assignment of mortgage as a corporate officer of MERS, Baum shall disclose that fact to the court in the application for the judgment of foreclosure, or earlier. Such disclosure shall not be required if the Baum firm does not file a proposed judgment of foreclosure (e.g. because another law firm has been substituted as counsel for the matter prior to the filing of a proposed judgment of foreclosure, because the action is dismissed, etc.)”

All that the banks need to do under this settlement in pending cases is to sub in another law firm that may use the Baum assignments to foreclose, without even making any further disclosure to the courts such as “the signers are really employees of the Baum Law Firm who previously represented the banks in this matter.”

While it is true that most defense attorneys will no doubt raise this point, it is also true that most homeowners in foreclosure proceed pro se and are likely to be completely unaware of this Settlement Agreement, and the actual employer of Elpiniki Bechakas and other Baum signers.

Then there is the matter of the tens of thousands of homeowners who have lost their homes in cases where Baum employees signed mortgage assignments as officers of MERS. Most often, they assigned mortgages to mortgage-backed trusts so that the trusts could foreclose, even though such transfers did not take place on the dates and in the manner set forth on the Baum assignments. These Baum Assignments appear throughout the New York courts, but often in the Courts of other states as well.

Two million seems to be the magic number. This is also the amount paid by the Law Offices of Marshall Watson in Florida whose associates engaged in similar practices of signing as MERS officers, assigning mortgages after foreclosure actions were initiated, etc.

Further relief may be forthcoming, from both criminal prosecutions, the NY Bar, and most certainly from private class action and RICO lawsuits brought by private litigants.

Investors in mortgage-backed securities must ask for reports from the Trustees of how much they have paid for these Baum Assignments in the last five years, how much they have lost and how much more they will lose when foreclosures are successfully defended because the loan documents relied on by the trustees were “Baum-made.”

This is a first-of-its-kind settlement with one significant party in the foreclosure fraud morass.

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Feds went easy on NY’s largest foreclosure mill, $2M wrist slap for Baum: critics

Feds went easy on NY’s largest foreclosure mill, $2M wrist slap for Baum: critics


Now you know why people Occupy Wall Street, They are pissed and sick and tired of all the fraud. Bloomberg warned that US unemployment will lead to RIOTS, I think he needs to broaden this statement.

NY POST-

The largest foreclosure mill in New York, under investigation for years by federal authorities for allegedly filing misleading paperwork, affidavits and mortgage documents, yesterday agreed to pay a $2 million fine to settle a probe by Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara.

Steven J. Baum PC, which has filed tens of thousands of foreclosure actions across the state over the past several years, promised to change the way it did business and admitted to “occasionally” making “inadvertent errors.”

The Buffalo-based firm, which was used by every major bank in the country, did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement deal.

.
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MANHATTAN U.S. ATTORNEY ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE LAW FIRM TO OVERHAUL ITS PRACTICES AND PAY $2 MILLION FINE

MANHATTAN U.S. ATTORNEY ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE LAW FIRM TO OVERHAUL ITS PRACTICES AND PAY $2 MILLION FINE


UNITED STATES ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
Southern District of New York

U.S. ATTORNEY PREET BHARARA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 6, 2011
http://www.justice.gov/usao/nys

CONTACT: Ellen Davis, Carly Sullivan, Jerika Richardson
(212) 637-2600

 

.

MANHATTAN U.S. ATTORNEY ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT
WITH MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE LAW FIRM TO OVERHAUL
ITS PRACTICES AND PAY $2 MILLION FINE

PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has entered into an agreement with the law firm of STEVEN J. BAUM, P.C. (“BAUM”), one of the largest volume mortgage foreclosure firms in New York State, that requires the firm to pay $2 million to the United States and to extensively change its practices with respect to mortgage foreclosure actions (the “Agreement”). The Agreement resolves an investigation into BAUM’s mortgage foreclosure-related practices, specifically whether the firm, on behalf of its lender clients, filed misleading pleadings, affidavits, and mortgage assignments in state and federal courts in New York.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney PREET BHARARA said: “In mortgage foreclosure proceedings, there are no excuses for sloppy practices that could lead to someone mistakenly losing their home. Homeowners facing foreclosure cannot afford to have faulty paperwork or inadequate evidence submitted, and today’s agreement will help minimize that risk.”

The Agreement specifically prohibits BAUM from engaging in certain practices related to the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”), a subscription-based electronic registry system for lenders and other entities that tracks ownership interests in mortgages. MERS members contractually agree to appoint MERS as their agent on all mortgages they register. Until recently, employees of BAUM, with the consent of MERS, had been assigning mortgages on behalf of MERS, even though they had no connection to MERS whatsoever, which resulted in errors in its legal filings in state and federal court. Pursuant to the Agreement, BAUM is prohibited from executing any assignment of a mortgage as an “officer” or “director” of MERS.

The Agreement also requires a general overhaul of BAUM’s practice with respect to its filings in mortgage foreclosure actions. Under the terms of the Agreement, BAUM has agreed to:

  • Take steps to inform courts of the nature of the assignments in pending foreclosure proceedings it is handling;
  • Obtain appropriate affidavits from its clients attesting to the fact that they possess original notes or have conducted a diligent search and the original note could not be found;
  • Have experienced attorneys supervise the preparation of pleadings, and review and approve pleadings before they can be filed;
  • Implement a 12-24 month training program for its attorneys that includes an overview of the foreclosure process in New York State and a review of the litigation procedures expected at BAUM;
  • Provide immediate notice to the Government when objections are raised regarding the accuracy of certain court filings related to mortgage foreclosure proceedings; and
  • Maintain documentation of its compliance with the settlement.

In addition, the Agreement requires BAUM to pay the United States $2 million in exchange for a release from any potential claims pursuant to the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (“FIRREA”). FIRREA authorizes the United States to seek civil penalties for violations of, and conspiracies to violate, certain predicate criminal statutes involving financial fraud, including mail and wire fraud. The release from liability does not preclude any other parties, including individual homeowners, from pursuing any rights they may have.

The Agreement does not constitute a finding by any court or agency that Baum has engaged in any unlawful practice or wrongdoing. In the Agreement, Baum acknowledges, however, that it occasionally made inadvertent errors in its legal filings in state and federal court, which it attributes to human error in light of the high volume of mortgage defaults and foreclosures throughout the State of New York in the wake of the national subprime mortgage crisis.

Mr. BHARARA thanked the U.S. Trustee’s Office for their invaluable assistance in this case. The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Frauds Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys PIERRE ARMAND and LARA ESHKENAZI are in charge of the case.

The Civil Frauds Unit works in coordination with President BARACK OBAMA’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, on which Mr. BHARARA serves as a Co-Chair of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Working Group. President OBAMA established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

11-302 ###

[Read the agreement below]

 

[ipaper docId=67831624 access_key=key-sjeggego2opcclgi8ik height=600 width=600 /]

 

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Steven J. Baum Law Firm to Pay $2 Million Over Foreclosure Practices

Steven J. Baum Law Firm to Pay $2 Million Over Foreclosure Practices


It’s become a new world in America. No matter how hard one tries, all those families who were thrown out of their homes…how many individuals can settle and get away with this?

Money is the root of all evil.

Bloomberg-

Steven J. Baum’s foreclosure law firm, one of the largest in New York state, will pay the U.S. $2 million and change its practices to resolve a probe into its mortgage-related legal filings.

The agreement resolves an investigation into whether the Baum firm filed misleading pleadings, affidavits and mortgage assignments in courts, according to a statement today by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan.

[BLOOMBERG]

 

[ipaper docId=67831624 access_key=key-sjeggego2opcclgi8ik height=600 width=600 /]

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U.S. Attorney Sends a Message to Wall Street

U.S. Attorney Sends a Message to Wall Street


“I wish I could say we were just about finished, but sadly we are not.”

NYTimes-

Every few days during the trial of Raj Rajaratnam, the Galleon Group’s co-founder, Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, would quietly enter the courtroom and take a seat in the last row of the gallery.

From that unassuming vantage point, Mr. Bharara watched his colleagues try to persuade a jury to convict the former hedge fund titan of securities fraud and conspiracy.


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With Banks Under Fire, Some Expect a Settlement: NYTimes.com

With Banks Under Fire, Some Expect a Settlement: NYTimes.com


From left, Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times; Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News; Ramin Talaie for The New York Times

From left, Andrew Cuomo, the New York attorney general; Robert Khuzami, of the S.E.C.; and Preet Bharara, of the United States attorney’s office. The agencies are investigating Wall Street.

By NELSON D. SCHWARTZ and ERIC DASH

Published: May 13, 2010

It is starting to feel as if everyone on Wall Street is under investigation by someone for something.

News on Thursday that New York State prosecutors are examining whether eight banks hoodwinked credit ratings agencies opened yet another front in what is fast becoming the legal battle of a decade for the big names of finance.

Not since the conflicts at the center of Wall Street stock research were laid bare a decade ago, eventually resulting in a $1.4 billion industrywide settlement, have so many investigations swirled across the financial landscape.

Nearly two years after Washington rescued big banks with billions of taxpayer dollars, half a dozen government agencies are still trying, with mixed success, to peel back the layers of the collapse to determine who, if anyone, broke the rules.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, the Justice Department, the United States attorney’s office and more are examining how banks created, rated, sold and traded mortgage securities that turned out to be some of the worst investments ever devised.

Virtually all of the investigations, criminal as well as civil, are in their early stages, and investigators concede that their job is daunting. The S.E.C. has been examining major banks’ mortgage operations since last summer, but so far, it has filed a civil fraud claim against just one big player: Goldman Sachs. Goldman has vowed to fight.

But legal experts are already starting to handicap potential outcomes, not only for Goldman but for the broader industry as well. Many suggest that Wall Street banks may seek a global settlement akin to the 2002 agreement related to stock research. Indeed, Wall Street executives are already discussing among themselves what the broad contours of such a settlement might look like.

“I would be stunned if any of these cases go to trial,” said Frank Partnoy, a professor of law at the University of San Diego. “I think Wall Street needs to put this scandal behind it as quickly as possible and move on.”

As part of the 2002 settlement, 10 banks paid $1.4 billion total and pledged to change the way their analysts and investment bankers interacted to prevent conflicts of interest. This time, the price of any settlement would probably be higher and also come with a series of structural reforms.

David Boies, chairman of the law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner, represented the government in its case against Microsoft and is now part of a federal challenge to California’s same-sex marriage ban. He said a settlement by banks might be painful but would ultimately be something Wall Street could live with. “The settlement may be bad for everyone, but not disastrous for anyone,” he said.

A settlement also would let the S.E.C. declare victory without having to bring a series of complex cases. The public, however, might never learn what really went wrong.

“The government doesn’t have the personnel to simultaneously prosecute several investment banks,” said John C. Coffee, a Columbia Law School professor.

The latest salvo came on Thursday from Andrew M. Cuomo, the New York attorney general. His office began an investigation into whether banks misled major ratings agencies to inflate the grades of subprime-linked investments.

Many Americans are probably already wondering why this has taken so long. The answer is that these cases are tricky, like the investments at the center of them.

But regulators also concede that they were reluctant to pursue banks aggressively until the financial industry stabilized. The S.E.C., for one, is now eager to prove that it is on its game after failing to spot the global Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Bernard L. Madoff, or head off the Wall Street excesses that nearly sank the entire economy.

The stakes are high for both sides. At a minimum, the failure to secure a civil verdict, or at least a mammoth settlement, would be another humiliation for regulators.

Wall Street wants to put this season of scandal behind it. That is particularly so given the debate over new financial regulations that is under way on Capitol Hill. The steady flow of new allegations could strengthen calls for tougher rules.

Even worse would be a criminal charge, which could put a firm out of business even if that firm were ultimately found not guilty, as was the case with the accounting giant Arthur Andersen after the fraud at Enron.

“No firm in the financial services field has the stomach for a criminal trial,” Mr. Coffee said.

Bankers have been reluctant until now to take their case to the public. But that is changing as Wall Street chieftains like Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman take to the airwaves and New York politicians warn that the city’s economy will be endangered by the attack on some of the city’s biggest employers and taxpayers.

“In New York, Wall Street is Main Street,” Gov. David A. Paterson has said. “You don’t hear anybody in New England complaining about clam chowder.”

There are broader political consequences as well. At the top, there is President Obama, who was backed by much of Wall Street in 2008. Many of those supporters now privately say they are disillusioned and frustrated by his attacks on their industry, which remains a vital source of campaign contributions for both parties.

Closer to home, the man who hopes to succeed Mr. Paterson, Mr. Cuomo, is painting himself as the new sheriff of Wall Street. Another attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, rode a series of Wall Street investigations to the governor’s mansion in 2006.

But ultimately, it is what Wall Street does best — making money — that is already on trial in the court of public opinion.

Put simply, the allegations against Wall Street were prompted by evidence that the firms may have devised and sold securities to investors without telling them they were simultaneously betting against them.

Wall Street firms typically play both sides of trades, whether to help buyers and sellers of everything from simple stocks to complicated derivatives complete their transactions, or to make proprietary bets on whether they would rise or fall.

These activities form half of the four-legged stool on which Wall Street’s profits and revenue rest, the others being advising on mergers and acquisitions and helping companies issue stocks, bonds and other securities.

“This case is a huge deal. It has the potential to be the mother of all Wall Street investigations,” said Mr. Partnoy of the University of San Diego. “The worry is that the government will go after dealings that Wall Street thought were insulated from review.”

Even some Wall Street executives concede that all the scrutiny makes proprietary trading a bit dubious. “The 20 guys in the room with the shades drawn are toast,” one senior executive of a major bank said.

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Kenneth Eric Trent, www.ForeclosureDestroyer.com

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