The Dodd-Frank financial regulatory bill may not be perfect but it is better than nothing. Donald Trump is now planning to gut it because, as he so bluntly put it, his friends can’t get loans “We have some of the bankers here. There’s nobody better to tell me about Dodd-Frank than Jamie, so you’re going …
Tag Archive: Bank Fraud
Once again the Obama Department of Justice has reached a settlement with a To Big To Fail Bank for pennies on the dollar and let the perpetrators walk away without criminal sanctions or penalties. Goldman Sachs will pay $5.06bn for its role in the 2008 financial crisis, the US Department of Justice said on Monday. …
On Wednesday in the early morning hours in Zurich, Switzerland, at a five star hotel, there were six phone calls made by the concierge to six rooms telling the occupants: “Sir,” the concierge said in English, “I’m just calling you to say that we’re going to need you to come to your door and open it for us or we’re going to have to kick it in.” How polite.
The hotel, which overlooks Lake Zurich, provided an unlikely setting for the apprehension of six global soccer executives who were arrested on corruption charges and now face extradition to the United States. The operation took less than two hours and was strikingly peaceful – no handcuffs, no guns drawn. It also involved an unusual use of a bedsheet.
Raids in the United States are typically led by armed SWAT team members wearing bulletproof vests and helmets, but the Swiss took a more subtle approach. Rather than storming into the executives’ rooms and hauling them out in their pajamas, the officers waited for the men to come to the door and then gave them a chance to get dressed and pack their bags.
The officers appeared to lead the officials out one by one, through several exits, including a side door, the hotel’s garage and, in one case, the main entrance.
Thus started the arrests of six global soccer executives on corruption charges. The indictments were brought by the US Justice Department stemming from an FBI and IRS investigation into the business practices of FIFA, the world governing body of the world’s most popular sport. soccer.
The Justice Department, F.B.I. and I.R.S. described soccer’s governing body in terms normally reserved for Mafia families and drug cartels, saying that top officials treated FIFA business decisions as chits to be traded for personal wealth. One soccer official took in more than $10 million in bribes, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said.
The schemes involving the fraud included the selection of South Africa as the host of the 2010 World Cup; the 2011 FIFA presidential elections; and several sports-marketing deals. [..]
The Department of Justice indictment names 14 people on charges including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. In addition to senior soccer officials, the indictment also named sports-marketing executives from the United States and South America who are accused of paying more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for media deals associated with major soccer tournaments. [..]
The promise that the investigation would continue raised the specter of more arrests, but officials would not comment on whether they were investigating Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president and the man widely regarded as the most powerful person in sports. One federal law enforcement official said Mr. Blatter’s fate would “depend on where the investigation goes from here.” [..]
United States law gives the Justice Department wide authority to bring cases against foreign nationals living abroad, an authority that prosecutors have used repeatedly in international terrorism cases. Those cases can hinge on the slightest connection to the United States, like the use of an American bank or Internet service provider.
Switzerland’s treaty with the United States is unusual in that it gives Swiss authorities the power to refuse extradition for tax crimes, but on matters of general criminal law, the Swiss have agreed to turn people over for prosecution in American courts.
What Esquire’s Charlie Pierce said:
Here and overseas, the entire corporate universe is shot through with metastatic corruption and crime. It is an essential part of the business model almost everywhere, from Wall Street offices to the pitch at Wembley. FIFA’s corruption is more than an endemic phenomenon. FIFA was simply one corrupt enterprise working with and through hundreds of other corrupt enterprises. There are governments, and there are communications empires, and there are all manner of companies advertising their wares — the “corporate partners” of a claque of brigands. If you did business with the crooks of FIFA, you’re a crook, too. There’s no way to avoid it. All of them are guilty. All of them are responsible. All of them are complicit in the corruption in the spotlight today, and in the death of anonymous workers in Qatar whose names they don’t even know. The whole goddamn corporate universe is begging for a gigantice RICO indictment.
It seems the Justice Department is capable of investigating and obtaining indictments against officials of an organization whose business practices have been described as “byzantine and impenetrable,” why can’t the DOJ do the same for the bankers of JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, Citibank, Bank of America, et al? It apparently is not that hard, Loretta.
Attorney General Eric Holder claimed that the banks were too big and too hard to prosecute for the “massive criminal securities fraud” behind the high risk mortgage securities that led up to the 2008 financial collapse. Instead the Justice Department opted for civil settlements with large fines with no admission of any wrong doing.
Actually, it wasn’t. It appears that the Obama administration’s chief law enforcement officer chose not to prosecute despite all the evidence at his disposal. In his return to Rolling Stones, investigative journalist Matt Taibbi introduces Alayne Fleischmann, JPMorgan Chase’s $9 billion nightmare:
She tried to stay quiet, she really did. But after eight years of keeping a heavy secret, the day came when Alayne Fleischmann couldn’t take it anymore.
“It was like watching an old lady get mugged on the street,” she says. “I thought, ‘I can’t sit by any longer.'” [..]
Fleischmann is the central witness in one of the biggest cases of white-collar crime in American history, possessing secrets that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon late last year paid $9 billion (not $13 billion as regularly reported – more on that later) to keep the public from hearing.
Back in 2006, as a deal manager at the gigantic bank, Fleischmann first witnessed, then tried to stop, what she describes as “massive criminal securities fraud” in the bank’s mortgage operations.
Thanks to a confidentiality agreement, she’s kept her mouth shut since then. “My closest family and friends don’t know what I’ve been living with,” she says. “Even my brother will only find out for the first time when he sees this interview.”
Six years after the crisis that cratered the global economy, it’s not exactly news that the country’s biggest banks stole on a grand scale. That’s why the more important part of Fleischmann’s story is in the pains Chase and the Justice Department took to silence her.
She was blocked at every turn: by asleep-on-the-job regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission, by a court system that allowed Chase to use its billions to bury her evidence, and, finally, by officials like outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, the chief architect of the crazily elaborate government policy of surrender, secrecy and cover-up. “Every time I had a chance to talk, something always got in the way,” Fleischmann says.
This past year she watched as Holder’s Justice Department struck a series of historic settlement deals with Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America. The root bargain in these deals was cash for secrecy. The banks paid big fines, without trials or even judges – only secret negotiations that typically ended with the public shown nothing but vague, quasi-official papers called “statements of facts,” which were conveniently devoid of anything like actual facts.
Matt and Ms. Fleischmann joined Democracy Now‘s hosts Amy Goodman and Juan González to discuss ow JPMorgan wrecked the economy and avoided prosecution.
The full transcript can be read here
William Black is an associate professor of economics and law at UMKC. He has held many prestigious positions, including executive director for Fraud Prevention. He recently helped the World Bank develop anti-corruption initiatives and served as an expert for OFHEO in its enforcement action against Fannie Mae’s former senior management. He is a criminologist and former financial regulator.
Why are these two tales of fraud not the same in the eyes of the law?
Charges for 106 in Huge Fraud Over Disability
By William K. Rashbaum and James C. McKinley Jr.JAN. 7, 2014
The retired New York City police officers and firefighters showed up for their psychiatric exams disheveled and disoriented, most following a nearly identical script.
They had been coached on how to fail memory tests, feign panic attacks and, if they had worked during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to talk about their fear of airplanes and entering skyscrapers, prosecutors said. And they were told to make it clear they could not leave the house, much less find a job. [..]
Former police officers who had told government doctors they were too mentally scarred to leave home had posted photographs of themselves fishing, riding motorcycles, driving water scooters, flying helicopters and playing basketball.
“The brazenness is shocking,” Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said on Tuesday.
While those fraudsters were being indicted, arrested and arraigned, these fraudster were planning their next rip off of their investors.
JPMorgan Is Penalized $2 Billion Over Madoff
By Ben Protess and Jessica Silver-Greenberg
Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, and Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, gathered in Lower Manhattan as Mr. Bharara’s prosecutors were considering criminal charges against Mr. Dimon’s bank for turning a blind eye to the Ponzi scheme run by Bernard L. Madoff. Mr. Dimon and his lawyers outlined the bank’s defense in the hopes of securing a lesser civil case, according to people briefed on the meeting. [..]
Within weeks of meeting Mr. Bharara and recognizing their limited bargaining power, JPMorgan’s lawyers accepted the $1.7 billion penalty, the people briefed on the meeting said, which was within the range that prosecutors initially proposed. The bank also agreed to pay $350 million to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, accepting the agency’s only offer, one of the people said.
It could have been worse for the bank. At one point, prosecutors were weighing whether to demand that the bank plead guilty to a criminal charge, a move that senior executives feared could have devastating ripple effects. Rather than extracting a guilty plea, prosecutors struck a so-called deferred-prosecution agreement, suspending an indictment for two years as long as JPMorgan overhauls its controls against money-laundering. [..]
For JPMorgan, the Madoff case is the bank’s latest steep payout to the government. In November, JPMorgan paid a record $13 billion to the Justice Department and other authorities over its sale of questionable mortgage securities in the lead-up to the financial crisis. All told, after paying these settlements, JPMorgan will have paid out some $20 billion to resolve government investigations over the last 12 months. [..]
And critics of Wall Street are unsatisfied, noting that Mr. Bharara’s office opted to defer prosecution and did not charge any JPMorgan employees with wrongdoing.
“Banks do not commit crimes; bankers do,” said Dennis M. Kelleher, the head of Better Markets, an advocacy group.
A United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, Jed Rakoff, wants to know why have no high-level executives been prosecuted for the financial crisis
Five years have passed since the onset of what is sometimes called the Great Recession. While the economy has slowly improved, there are still millions of Americans leading lives of quiet desperation: without jobs, without resources, without hope.
Who was to blame? Was it simply a result of negligence, of the kind of inordinate risk-taking commonly called a “bubble,” of an imprudent but innocent failure to maintain adequate reserves for a rainy day? Or was it the result, at least in part, of fraudulent practices, of dubious mortgages portrayed as sound risks and packaged into ever more esoteric financial instruments, the fundamental weaknesses of which were intentionally obscured?
If it was the former – if the recession was due, at worst, to a lack of caution – then the criminal law has no role to play in the aftermath. [..]
But if, by contrast, the Great Recession was in material part the product of intentional fraud, the failure to prosecute those responsible must be judged one of the more egregious failures of the criminal justice system in many years. [..]
In striking contrast with these past prosecutions, not a single high-level executive has been successfully prosecuted in connection with the recent financial crisis, and given the fact that most of the relevant criminal provisions are governed by a five-year statute of limitations, it appears likely that none will be. It may not be too soon, therefore, to ask why. [..]
But the stated opinion of those government entities asked to examine the financial crisis overall is not that no fraud was committed. Quite the contrary. For example, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, in its final report, uses variants of the word “fraud” no fewer than 157 times in describing what led to the crisis, concluding that there was a “systemic breakdown,” not just in accountability, but also in ethical behavior. [..]
Without giving further examples, the point is that, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the prevailing view of many government officials (as well as others) was that the crisis was in material respects the product of intentional fraud. In a nutshell, the fraud, they argued, was a simple one. Subprime mortgages, i.e., mortgages of dubious creditworthiness, increasingly provided the chief collateral for highly leveraged securities that were marketed as AAA, i.e., securities of very low risk. How could this transformation of a sow’s ear into a silk purse be accomplished unless someone dissembled along the way? [..]
Thus, Attorney General Eric Holder himself told Congress:
It does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute-if you do bring a criminal charge-it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.
To a federal judge, who takes an oath to apply the law equally to rich and to poor, this excuse-sometimes labeled the “too big to jail” excuse-is disturbing, frankly, in what it says about the department’s apparent disregard for equality under the law.
As we have documented here at Stars Hollow, the task force that was created to pursue mortgage fraud and hold the banks accountable was, and is, a sham game to protect the banks from real relief for defrauded homeowners.
Your mortgage documents are fake!
by David Dayen, Salon
Prepare to be outraged. Newly obtained filings from this Florida woman’s lawsuit uncover a horrifying scheme
A newly unsealed lawsuit, which banks settled in 2012 for $1 billion, actually offers a different reason, providing a key answer to one of the persistent riddles of the financial crisis and its aftermath. The lawsuit states that banks resorted to fake documents because they could not legally establish true ownership of the loans when trying to foreclose.
This reality, which banks did not contest but instead settled out of court, means that tens of millions of mortgages in America still lack a legitimate chain of ownership, with implications far into the future. And if Congress, supported by the Obama Administration, goes back to the same housing finance system, with the same corrupt private entities who broke the nation’s private property system back in business packaging mortgages, then shame on all of us. [..]
Most of official Washington, including President Obama, wants to wind down mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and return to a system where private lenders create securitization trusts, packaging pools of loans and selling them to investors. Government would provide a limited guarantee to investors against catastrophic losses, but the private banks would make the securities, to generate more capital for home loans and expand homeownership.
That’s despite the evidence we now have that, the last time banks tried this, they ignored the law, failed to convey the mortgages and notes to the trusts, and ripped off investors trying to cover their tracks, to say nothing of how they violated the due process rights of homeowners and stole their homes with fake documents.
The very same banks that created this criminal enterprise and legal quagmire would be in control again. Why should we view this in any way as a sound public policy, instead of a ticking time bomb that could once again throw the private property system, a bulwark of capitalism and indeed civilization itself, into utter disarray? As Lynn Szymoniak puts it, “The President’s calling for private equity to return. Why would we return to this?”
White-collar fraud expert proves ‘mortgage-backed securities’ neither mortgage-backed nor secure
by Scott Kaufmann, The Raw Story
The forged documents were endorsed by employees of companies long bankrupt, executives who signed their name eight different ways, or “people” named “Bogus Assignee for Intervening Assignments” so that the banks could establish standing to foreclose in courts. The end result, according to white-collar fraud expert Lynn Szymoniak, is that over $1.4 trillion in mortgage-backed securities are still, to this day, based on fraudulent mortgage assignments.
The lawsuit against Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citi and GMAC/Ally Bank was settled in early 2012 for $1 billion, but now that the evidence is unsealed, Szymoniak and her legal team are free to pursue the other named defendants, including HSBC, the Bank of New York Mellon, and US Bank. “I’m really glad I was part of collecting this money for the government, and I’m looking forward to going through discovery and collecting the rest of it,” Szymoniak told Salon.
Eric Holder Owes the American People an Apology
Jonathan Weil, Bloomberg News
The Justice Department made a long-overdue disclosure late Friday: Last year when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder boasted about the successes that a high-profile task force racked up pursuing mortgage fraud, the numbers he trumpeted were grossly overstated. [..]
In an updated press release Friday, which corrected its initial release of last October, the Justice Department said a review of the cases found that the inflated figures included defendants who had been sentenced or convicted in fiscal year 2012 — not just people who had been criminally charged, as originally reported. Its original, lofty tally also included cases in which the victims weren’t distressed homeowners. [..]
What a charade. No wonder the government found it so difficult to bring a meaningful number of accounting-fraud cases against bank executives after the financial crisis. Its own books were cooked. [..]
This was the second time, mind you, that Holder’s Justice Department had pulled a stunt like this. In December 2010, Holder held a press conference to tout a supposed sweep by the president’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force called “Operation Broken Trust.” (The mortgage-fraud program was part of the same task force.) As with the mortgage-fraud initiative, Broken Trust wasn’t actually a sweep. All the Justice Department did was lump together a bunch of small-fry, penny-ante fraud cases that had nothing to do with one another. Then it held a press gathering.
Between this sham that protects the banks and the egregious violations of the press and privacy of all Americans with abusive use of FISA, Eric Holder owes us more than an apology, he owes us his resignation as Attorney General.
The foreclosure fraud perpetrated by the banks and private mortgage companies that was given a pass by the Obama Department of Justice.
by Shahien Nasiripour, Huffington Post
Nearly a third of all foreclosed borrowers who faced proceedings brought by the biggest U.S. mortgage companies during the height of the housing crisis came to the brink of losing their homes due to potential bank errors or under now-banned practices, regulators have revealed. [..]
The estimates, disclosed Tuesday, far exceed projections made over the past few years after document abuses known as robosigning gained widespread attention in late 2010. [..]
More than 28,000 households that faced foreclosure proceedings were protected under federal bankruptcy laws, while roughly 1,100 had been meeting all the requirements of so-called forbearance plans that their mortgage companies had agreed to, which allow for delayed payments.
Some 1,600 borrowers who faced foreclosure proceedings were protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003, which forces mortgage companies to cap interest rates and follow special procedures when foreclosing on homes belonging to active-duty members of the armed forces and their families.
Banks are foreclosing on military members, on people who had been approved for a loan modification, and even on people who were never behind in their payments–all part of an astounding settlement that shortchanged millions of homeowners and left hundreds of thousands wrongfully ejected from their homes. Former Governor Elliot Spitzer; Alexis Goldstein, former Vice President at Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank, now an Occupy Wall Street activist ; and Faith Bautista, who was the victim of wrongful home foreclosure in 2009, join Chris Hayes and paint a stark picture of what happened, who is responsible and why there isn’t more justice from the government.
The big banks continue to receive %83 billion a year in tax payer money to bail them out. Where is the justice for these homeowners?
Pres. Barack Obama nominated former US Attorney of the Southern District of New York, Mary Jo White, to head the troubled Securities and Exchange Commission. The announcement comes a day after the damning PBS Fraontline expose of the Department of Justice’s failure to prosecute bank fraud and the resignation of Lanny Breuer, the head of the DOJ criminal division. Ms. White certainly has a fine reputation of being a tough prosecutor during her tenure as US Attorney, she managed something Rudi Guiliani failed to do, finally putting notorious mobster John “The Teflon Don” Gotti behind bars. However, in the 10 years since she left that office, Ms. White has worked diligently to protect the heads of the “Too Big To Fail” banks. In his Salon article, David Sirota called her a “Wall Street enabler” and goes on to enumerate the evidence:
Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone contributing editor, in his article “Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail,” recounts how during her tenure as head of litigation at the New York law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, Ms. White defended some very high profile bankers and played a key role in the “squelching of then-SEC investigator Gary Aguirre’s investigation into an insider trading incident involving future Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack”
The deal looked like a classic case of insider trading. But in the summer of 2005, when Aguirre told his boss he planned to interview Mack, things started getting weird. His boss told him the case wasn’t likely to fly, explaining that Mack had “powerful political connections.”…
Aguirre also started to feel pressure from Morgan Stanley, which was in the process of trying to rehire Mack as CEO … It didn’t take long for Morgan Stanley to work its way up the SEC chain of command. Within three days, another of the firm’s lawyers, Mary Jo White, was on the phone with the SEC’s director of enforcement…
Pause for a minute to take this in. Aguirre, an SEC foot soldier, is trying to interview a major Wall Street executive – not handcuff the guy or impound his yacht, mind you, just talk to him. In the course of doing so, he finds out that his target’s firm is being represented…by the former U.S. attorney overseeing Wall Street, who is going four levels over his head to speak directly to the chief of the SEC’s enforcement division…
Aguirre didn’t stand a chance. A month after he complained to his supervisors that he was being blocked from interviewing Mack, he was summarily fired, without notice. The case against Mack was immediately dropped: all depositions canceled, no further subpoenas issued.
In February of 2012 on a panel at a New York University School of Law even, Ms White expressed her doubts about whether banks had committed crimes ahead of the financial crisis stating that care should be taken to “distinguish what is actually criminal and what is just mistaken behavior, what is even reckless risk-taking, and not bow to the frenzy.”
Another point of conflict is Ms. White’s husband. Yves Smith at naked capitalism notes that “John White, who headed the SEC’s corporate finance section under Chris Cox and was heavily involved in detailed Sarbanes Oxley rulemaking, and now that he is back at Cravath, has been lobbying against regulation.”
Nor does Ms. White have a background in finance or the “inner workings of the trading system:”
Although she has represented many executives accused of financial crimes, White is not an expert on the inner workings of trading systems, a lack of knowledge that may not serve her well as the SEC struggles to keep up with rapid changes in increasingly complex financial markets.
“The problem with the SEC is that they don’t seem to have a grip on” high-frequency trading and other major issues affecting modern financial markets, said Joe Saluzzi, co-head of equity trading at independent brokerage Themis Trading and a frequent critic of high-speed trading. “We’re concerned about cleaning up the market, and we need the SEC to take the lead here.”
Her background puts to question how aggressively White might prosecute financial fraud and enforce new rules under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law — most of which have not yet been adopted by the SEC.
Matt Taibbi recounts a conversation he had with a head fund manager regarding Ms. White’s:
His point about White is simple and it makes a lot of sense. She may very well at one time have been a tough prosecutor. But she dropped out and made the move a lot of regulators make – leaving government to make bucketloads of money working for the people she used to police. “That move, being a tough prosecutor, then going to work defending scumbags, you can only make that move once,” was his point. “You can’t go back again, you know what I mean?”
Think about it: how do you go back and sit in S.E.C.’s top spot after all of those years earning millions as a partner for a firm that represented Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Goldman, Sachs, Deutsche, Chase, and AIG, among others? Think that fact that his firm has retained her firm has anything to do with Jamie Dimon coming out and saying that White is the “perfect choice” to run the S.E.C.? Think of all the things she knows but can’t act upon. Could she really turn around and target Morgan Stanley after being their lawyer for all those years?
Ms. White is not only another example of the government’s revolving door from public service to private practice back to public service but of Pres. Obama’s signal to Wall Street that they are safe to continue with business as usual. Mary Jo White is the fox in the hen house.