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Bill Black: Jobs Now, Stop the Foreclosures, Jail the Banksters

Bill Black: Jobs Now, Stop the Foreclosures, Jail the Banksters


by on Nov 2, 2011

Bill Black: Here are three things the “Occupy Movement” could focus on

 

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U.S. banks offered deal over lawsuits – FT

U.S. banks offered deal over lawsuits – FT


REUTERS-

Big U.S. banks in talks with state prosecutors to settle claims of improper mortgage practices have been offered a deal that is proposed to limit part of their legal liability, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

The FT said state prosecutors have proposed a deal to limit part of the banks’ liability in return for a multibillion-dollar payment.

The talks aim to settle allegations that banks including Bank of America (BAC.N), JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N), Wells Fargo (WFC.N), Citigroup (C.N) and Ally Financial (GKM.N). seized the homes of delinquent borrowers and broke state laws by employing so-called “robosigners”, workers who signed off on foreclosure documents en masse without reviewing the paperwork.

[REUTERS]

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FHFA Complaints: Can Control Frauds Recover for Being Defrauded by other Control Frauds?

FHFA Complaints: Can Control Frauds Recover for Being Defrauded by other Control Frauds?


William K. Black-

Reading the FHFA complaints against many of the world’s largest banks is a fascinating and troubling process for anyone that understands “accounting control fraud.” The FHFA, a federal regulatory agency, sued in its capacity as conservator for Fannie and Freddie. Its complaints are primarily based on fraud. The FHFA alleges that the fraud came from the top, i.e., it alleges that many of the world’s largest banks were control frauds and that they committed hundreds of thousands of fraudulent acts. The FHFA complaints emphasize that other governmental investigations have repeatedly confirmed that the defendant banks were engaged in endemic fraud. The failure of the Department of Justice to convict any senior official of a major bank, and the almost total failure to indict any senior official of a major bank has moved from scandal to farce.

The FHFA complaints are distressing, however, in their failure to explain why the frauds occurred and how an accounting control fraud works. The FHFA complaint against Countrywide is particularly disappointing because …

[BENZINGA]

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BLACK: There Was “Massive Illegality” In Mortgage Lending

BLACK: There Was “Massive Illegality” In Mortgage Lending


The Immunity Doctrine: Bank Fraudsters Go Free as a Matter of Policy


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William Black | ‘If you don’t look; you don’t find, Wherever you look; you will find’

William Black | ‘If you don’t look; you don’t find, Wherever you look; you will find’


HuffPO

I can no longer say that not a single senior executive of one of the major nonprime lenders whose frauds hyper-inflated the housing bubble and caused the Great Recession has been convicted of his frauds. A single senior executive of one of the hundreds of fraudulent nonprime lenders was convicted yesterday, April 19, 2011. A jury found Lee Farkas, Chairman of the Board of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker (TBW), guilty of fraud. TBW was a large mortgage banking firm that made many nonprime loans, but the prosecution does not address the fraudulent nonprime lending.

[…]

Third, note that while a Colonial Bank officer pleaded guilty for assisting these frauds against Colonial Bank, no one has pleaded guilty at Freddie Mac. The critical question is whether TBW actually delivered the key loan documents to Freddie Mac. Did Freddie Mac obtain an enforceable security interest or was it defrauded by TBW? Was Colonial Bank the only victim of the double sale/pledge?

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WILLIAM BLACK | Why aren’t the honest bankers demanding prosecutions of their dishonest rivals?

WILLIAM BLACK | Why aren’t the honest bankers demanding prosecutions of their dishonest rivals?


This is the second column in a series responding to Stephen Moore’s central assaults on regulation and the prosecution of the elite white-collar criminals who cause our recurrent, intensifying financial crises. Last week’s column addressed his claim in a recent Wall Street Journal column that all government employees, including the regulatory cops on the beat, are “takers” destroying America.

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William K. Black | The Assault on the Already Crippled SEC and CFTC Will Increase “Control Fraud”

William K. Black | The Assault on the Already Crippled SEC and CFTC Will Increase “Control Fraud”


By William K. Black

The SEC and the CFTC’s budgets are not provided by the federal budget. The agencies, as with the federal banking regulatory agencies, are funded by user fees. None of these agencies’ budgets contribute to the deficit. When these agencies fail to stop epidemics of “control fraud” the result can be a Great Recession and trillions of dollars in increased deficits. The asymmetry is so stark that anyone serious about deficits would make ensuring the effectiveness of the SEC, CFTC, and the banking regulatory agencies among their greatest priorities. Supposed deficit hawks in the House are also among the strongest proponents of cutting the SEC, CFTC, and banking regulatory agencies’ budget even though this cannot have any positive effect on deficits and is exceptionally likely to produce the next financial and economic crisis that will produce the next sharp increase in the federal deficit. This is significantly insane, and it is even more insane that no one seems to call them on their insanity.

The purported logic for slashing the SEC and CFTC budgets represents another form of insanity. The logic is that the SEC and the CFTC failed to prevent the epidemic of accounting control fraud that drove the current financial crisis, the Great Recession, and the growing budget deficit. That is true, but proves the opposite. The SEC and the CFTC failures were self-fulfilling prophecies by kindred ideologues of those now seeking to slash the SEC and CFTC budgets.

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William K. Black: The Unanticipated Consequences of MERS

William K. Black: The Unanticipated Consequences of MERS


Bill Black is the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He is a white-collar criminologist who has spent years working on regulatory policy and fraud prevention as Executive Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention, Litigation Director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and Deputy Director of the National Commission on Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enforcement, among other positions.

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By William K. Black
New Economic Perspectives

One of the defining motifs of theoclassical economics textbooks is the provision of examples of the unintended consequences of government action. Those consequences are invariably negative. The narrative is the government intended to achieve some goal, e.g., help the poor, and ended up harming the poor. Four counter narratives virtually never appear in these tracts. Theoclassical economists rarely mention: 1. Any governmental program that succeeds in its aims 2. Any governmental program that has unanticipated, positive consequences 3. Any private action that has negative unanticipated consequences 4. Any private action that has negative, intended consequences


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Silence Is NOT Always Golden, Negotiating A ‘Foreclosure Fraud’ Settlement

Silence Is NOT Always Golden, Negotiating A ‘Foreclosure Fraud’ Settlement


Bizarre is the first thing that comes to mind. What many of us find disturbing is what exactly is playing part behind closed doors. The following information should have been in place years ago…

Take for instance the latest from The Wall Street Journal:

The document also spells out steps for banks to verify the accuracy of amounts owed, people familiar with the proposal said. Banks will face limits on fees that they can impose on delinquent borrowers. The document also includes a list of directives to improve tracking of mortgage notes and the chain of title, and to boost oversight of foreclosure law firms and third-party vendors, these people said.

The code of conduct references the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, or MERS, an electronic lien-registry system designed to facilitate the recording of mortgages. It says details clarifying the use of MERS may be spelled out later.

Banks said they are studying the document. “We are analyzing what was shared with us yesterday,” said a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo. A spokesman for Citigroup said, “Our discussions with government officials are confidential.” Bank of America declined to comment.

Negotiating fraud should not be an option. Why keep this information from the public?


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WILLIAM BLACK: 2011 Will Bring More de Facto Decriminalization of Elite Financial Fraud

WILLIAM BLACK: 2011 Will Bring More de Facto Decriminalization of Elite Financial Fraud


William K. Black
Assoc. Professor, Univ. of Missouri, Kansas City; Sr. regulator during S&L debacle
Posted: December 28, 2010 05:29 PM

The role of the criminal justice system with regard to financial fraud by elite bankers in 2011 is likely to reprise its role last decade — de facto decriminalization. The Galleon investigation of insider trading at hedge funds will take much of the FBI’s and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) focus.

The state attorneys general investigations of foreclosure fraud do focus on the major players such as the Bank of America (BoA), but they are unlikely to lead to criminal liability for any senior bank officials. It is most likely that they will lead to financial settlements that include new funding for loan modifications.

The FBI and the DOJ remain unlikely to prosecute the elite bank officers that ran the enormous “accounting control frauds” that drove the financial crisis. While over 1000 elites were convicted of felonies arising from the savings and loan (S&L) debacle, there are no convictions of controlling officers of the large nonprime lenders. The only indictment of controlling officers of a far smaller nonprime lender arose not from an investigation of the nonprime loans but rather from the lender’s alleged efforts to defraud the federal government’s TARP bailout program.

What has gone so catastrophically wrong with DOJ, and why has it continued so long? The fundamental flaw is that DOJ’s senior leadership cannot conceive of elite bankers as criminals.

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Let’s Set the Record Straight on Bank of America, Part 2: Eliminating Foreclosure Fraud

Let’s Set the Record Straight on Bank of America, Part 2: Eliminating Foreclosure Fraud


William K. Black and L. Randall Wray

Posted: November 5, 2010 01:23 PM

This is the second installment of a two-part series. Read the first here.

We have explained in prior posts and interviews that there are two foreclosure-related crises. Our first twopart post called on the U.S. to begin “foreclosing on the foreclosure fraudsters.” We concentrated on how the underlying epidemic of mortgage fraud by lenders inevitably produced endemic foreclosure fraud. We wrote to urge government policymakers to get Bank of America and other lenders and servicers to clean up the massive fraud. We obviously cannot on rely solely on Bank of America assessing its own culpability.

Note also that while we have supported a moratorium on foreclosures, this is only to stop the foreclosure frauds — the illegal seizure of homes by fraudulent means. We do not suppose that financial institutions can afford to maintain toxic assets on their books. The experience of the thrift crisis of the 1980s demonstrates the inherent problems created by forbearance in the case of institutions that are run as control frauds. All of the incentives of a control fraud bank are worsened with forbearance. Our posts on the Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) law (which mandates that the regulators place insolvent banks in receivership) have focused on the banks’ failure to foreclose as a deliberate strategy to avoid recognizing their massive losses in order to escape receivership and to allow their managers to further loot the banks through huge bonuses based on fictional income (which ignores real losses). We have previously noted the massive rise in the “shadow inventory” of loans that have received no payments for years, yet have not led to foreclosure:

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Foreclose on the Foreclosure Fraudsters, Part 1: Put Bank of America in Receivership

Foreclose on the Foreclosure Fraudsters, Part 1: Put Bank of America in Receivership


Posted: October 22, 2010 02:08 PM
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After a quick review of its procedures, Bank of America this week announced that it will resume its foreclosures in 23 lucky states next Monday. While the evidence is overwhelming that the entire foreclosure process is riddled with fraud, President Obama refuses to support a national moratorium. Indeed, his spokesmen on the issue told reporters three key things. As the Los Angeles Times reported:

A government review of botched foreclosure paperwork so far has found that the problems do not pose a “systemic” threat to the financial system, a top Obama administration official said Wednesday.

Yes, that’s right. HUD reviewed the “paperwork” problem to see whether it threatened the banks — not the homeowners who were the victims of foreclosure fraud. But it got worse, for the second point was how the government would respond to the epidemic of foreclosure fraud.

The Justice Department is leading an investigation of possible crimes involving mortgage fraud.

That language was carefully chosen to sound reassuring. But the fact is that despite our pleas the FBI has continued its “partnership” with the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). The MBA is the trade association of the “perps.” It created a ridiculous on its face definition of “mortgage fraud.” Under that definition the lenders — who led the mortgage frauds — are the victims. The FBI still parrots this long discredited “definition.” That is one of the primary reasons why — in complete contrast to prior financial crises — the Justice Department has not convicted a single senior officer of the large nonprime lenders who directed, committed, and profited enormously from the frauds.

Note that the Justice Department is not investigating foreclosure fraud. HUD Secretary Donovan’s statement shows why:

“We will not tolerate business as usual in the mortgage market,” he said. “Where there have been mistakes made or errors, we will hold those entities, those institutions, accountable to stop those processes, review them and fix them as quickly as possible.”

Note the language: “mistakes”, “errors”, “processes” (following the initial use of “paperwork”). No mention of “fraud”, “felony”, “criminal investigations”, or “prosecutions” for the tens of thousands of felonies that representatives of the entities foreclosing on homes have admitted that they committed. Note that Donovan does not even demand that the felons remedy the harm caused by their past fraudulent foreclosures. Donovan wants them to “fix” “processes” — not repair the harm their frauds caused to their victims.

The fraudulent CEOs looted with impunity, were left in power, and were granted their fondest wish when Congress, at the behest of the Chamber of Commerce, Chairman Bernanke, and the bankers’ trade associations, successfully extorted the professional Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to turn the accounting rules into a farce. The FASB’s new rules allowed the banks (and the Fed, which has taken over a trillion dollars in toxic mortgages as wholly inadequate collateral) to refuse to recognize hundreds of billions of dollars of losses. This accounting scam produces enormous fictional “income” and “capital” at the banks. The fictional income produces real bonuses to the CEOs that make them even wealthier. The fictional bank capital allows the regulators to evade their statutory duties under the Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) law to close the insolvent and failing banks.

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Spitzer & Black: Questions from the Goldman Scandal

Spitzer & Black: Questions from the Goldman Scandal


Spitzer & Black: Questions from the Goldman Scandal

Monday, 04/26/2010 – 6:37 am by Eliot Spitzer and William Black 

money-question-150Spitzer and Black argue that the Goldman revelations underscore the need for serious financial reform.

For those who have spent years investigating fraud, it was no surprise to hear that Goldman Sachs, the (self-described) jewel of Wall Street, is the latest firm to emerge from the financial crisis with tarnished reputation. According to a lawsuit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Goldman misrepresented to its customers the quality of the toxic assets underlying a complex financial derivative known as a “synthetic collateralized debt obligation (CDO).”

As you may now have heard, the story involves a pair of Paulsons. As CEO of Goldman, Hank Paulson oversaw the buying of large amounts of CDOs backed by largely fraudulent “liar’s loans.” When he became U.S. Treasury Secretary, he went on to launch a successful war against securities and banking regulation. Hank Paulson’s successors at Goldman saw the writing on the wall and began to “short” CDOs. They realized that they had an unusual, brief window of opportunity to unload their losers on their customers. Being the very model of a modern investment banking firm, they thought that blowing up their customers would be fine sport.

John Paulson (unrelated), who controls a large hedge fund, also wanted to short CDOs and he, too, recognized that there was a narrow window for doing so. The reason there was a profit opportunity was that the “market” for toxic mortgages only appeared to be a functioning market. It was, in reality, a massive bubble in which ratings and “market” prices were grotesquely inflated. The inflated prices were continuing only because the huge players knew that the prices and races were fictional and were covering it up through the financial equivalent of “don’t ask; don’t tell.” According to the SEC complaint:

In January 2007, a Paulson employee explained the company’s view, saying that “rating agencies, CDO managers and underwriters have all the incentives to keep the game going, while ‘real money’ investors have neither the analytical tools nor the institutional framework to take action.”

We know from Bankruptcy Examiner Valukas’ report on Lehman that the Federal Reserve knew that the “market” prices were delusional and refused to require entities like Lehman to recognize their losses on “liar’s loans” for fear that it would expose the cover up of the losses. Valukas reports that Geithner explained to him when interviewed (p. 1502) that:

The challenge for the Government, and for troubled firms like Lehman, was to reduce risk exposure, and the act of reducing risk by selling assets could result in “collateral damage” by demonstrating weakness and exposing “air” in the marks.

Goldman and John Paulson worked together. One of the key things to understand about shorting is that it is extremely valuable if other major players short similar targets at the same time. By helping Paulson take advantage of Goldman’s customers (the ones that lacked “the analytical tools” to avoid being hosed), Goldman not only earned a substantial fee, but also aided its overall strategy of shorting the toxic paper.

Goldman created a deal in which John Paulson played a major role in selecting the toxic paper that would underlie the investment. He picked assets “most likely to fail – quickly” and studies show that he was particularly good at picking the losers. At this juncture, there is some dispute as to whether ACA was complicit with John Paulson and Goldman in picking losers (ACA initially invested in the synthetic CDO, but then transferred the risk of loss to German and English taxpayers).

What isn’t in dispute is that Goldman, ACA, and Paulson all failed to disclose to purchasers of the synthetic CDO that it was designed to be most likely to fail. The representation was the opposite: that the assets were picked by an independent entity with their interests at heart (ACA). Goldman claims it’s a victim because while it intended to sell its entire position in the synthetic CDO to its customers, it was unable to sell a chunk. One feels the firm’s pain. Goldman tried to blow up its customers to the tune of over $1 billion, but were unable to sell them the last $90 million in exposure.

The Goldman scandal raises several important questions: Did John Paulson and ACA know that Goldman was making these false disclosures to the CDO purchasers? Did they “aid and abet” what the SEC alleges was Goldman’s fraud? Why have there been no criminal charges? Why did the SEC only name a relatively low-level Goldman officer in its complaint? Where are the prosecutors?

In a December New York Times op ed, we, along with Frank Partnoy, asked for the public disclosure of AIG emails and key documents so that we can investigate the deceptive practices exposed by the Goldman case. Goldman used AIG to provide the CDS on most of these synthetic CDO deals (though not the particular one that is the subject of the SEC complaint), and Hank Paulson used tax payer money to secretly bail out Goldman when AIG’s deceptive practices drove it to failure.

The SEC’s Goldman fraud complaint points to fundamental problem in the financial sector that has been at the root of the financial crisis — one that still exists today. The market is not transparent. It has been fraudulently manipulated to enrich managers. Investors lack clear information to make decisions about what they are buying. A continuing absence of real consumer protections makes people like those trying to obtain mortgages before the crash understand that they were, in many cases, being ripped off. According to internal Goldman Sachs e-mails, the company vice president, 31-year old Fabrice Tourre, did not really understand the complex deals he was making. And yet we note that many of these Goldman-style deals were “insured” by AIG. Without transparency, regulators cannot properly see all these kinds of deals in the aggregate. So they can neither stop the fraud nor prevent catastrophic results.

We applaud the SEC lawsuit, but it will not solve the problem. Unless our financial system is reformed to put adequate protections and checks and balances in place, we can expect this kind of fraud to continue. Financial executives will continue to take risks they do not understand. Those who control the flow of capital will continue to churn out profits with socially disastrous consequences.

Related Stories:

Taibbi: Will Goldman Sachs Prove Greed Is God?

Jon Stewart on Goldman Sachs (Red Hot Energy and Gold – Global…, 4/20/10)

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