Election Year Bravado

A new federal federal task force, dubbed the "Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group" led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has sent subpoenas to the 11 largest financial institutions in the past few days as part of its investigation into possible residential mortgage-backed securities fraud. 

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who was cast off the central negotiation committee of Attorneys General trying to crack down on several securitization issues related to the major banks, seems to be gaining a foothold in his attempt to forge his own settlement with the major banks outside the realm of the federal regulators and AG Tom Miller's crew. 

Schneiderman will be joined by Delaware AG Beau Biden, Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley, Nevada AG Catherine Cortez Masto, California AG Kamala Harris and Illinois AG Lisa Madigan, several of whom refused to bow to continued pressure to try and settle legacy issues surrounding the robo-signing scandal and other securitization issues.

It is very interesting that President Obama allegedly formed this task group, which he announced during his State of the Union address Tuesday.  President Obama has come under increasing pressure to do something substantive about the ongoing foreclosure crisis, which has not been curtailed in the slightest by the introduction of yet another acronym. 

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said 15 lawyers and investigators are working with the group. The FBI will add 10 agents, and another 30 lawyers and staff will join the group, along with the

The SEC will also participate. SEC Director of Enforcement Robert Khuzami said there "would be no stone unturned, no dark corner unexposed to the light."

Schneiderman, in a clear shot across the bow to the major banks commented: "We have jurisdiction to go after every aspect of the mortgage bubble and the crash of the financial market . . . We have jurisdiction over every MBS issued over the last decade with Delaware and New York joining the group."

Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan, has also made clear the investigation and ongoing settlement negotiation between other state AGs and mortgage servicers over foreclosure problems would be separate and any charges would not release the banks from liability in the robo-signing scandal.

"It became clear very quickly that Eric [Schneiderman] and I shared a vision that it would be a grave injustice to hold these institutions accountable and potentially have hundreds of billions be paid to private investors and pension funds but not make sure homeowners who hold those loans who depend on being able to get those loans fixed to be able stay in those homes," Donovan said.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who has been heading up the mortgage servicer investigation, has said the resulting settlement would not release the banks from securitization or lending liabilities.

This is going to produce a very interesting political sideshow as AG Tom Miller tries to keep his band of AG's together, while Schneiderman forges ahead with the new found support of the Obama administration, which it seems only recently, was looking to help the major banks and servicers find a quick settlement to documented abuses that have been alleged by the AG's for some time now. 

The task force represents the Obama administration’s attempt to address complaints from the "Occupy" part of his constituency that it has simply failed to address the housing crisis or bring banks to account for causing it through subprime home loans that were repackaged and securitzed and sold to investors. Critics correctly point out that the Obama administration's attempts to solve the problem through government-sponsored refinancing programs and gentle begging to the banks, have been ineffective.  This is going to be a campaign issue and if the Obama administration is not going to try to spin, the Republicans certainly will.  It has been over three years since the credit crunch in earnest and the housing market had started its full-force downward spiral, and little has changed.  Not surprising to see yet another attempt by the administration to try and appease another part of the base. 

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