Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Never Again

“ ... never again will America allow any insured institution (to) operate without enough money ... 
President George W. Bush, following the savings and loan crash in 1989.

The savings and loan debacle in the 80's was 1/70 (one-seventieth) the size of the 2007-8 crash, both in terms of losses and the amount of fraud.  In that smaller debacle, regulators made over 30,000 criminal referrals and  produced over 1,000 felony convictions in cases designated as “major” by the Department of Justice.

Regulators worked with the FBI and the Justice Department to create a list of the top 100 — the 100 worst fraud schemes. They targeted roughly 300 savings and loans and 600 individuals; virtually all of those people were prosecuted. We had a 90 percent conviction rate, which is the greatest success against elite white-collar crime (in terms of prosecution) in history.

In the '08 crash, by comparison, the Office of Thrift Supervision made zero criminal referrals. They were supposed to regulate Countrywide, Washington Mutual and IndyMac, among others, which collectively made hundreds of thousands of fraudulent mortgage loans.  The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which is supposed to regulate the largest national banks, made zero criminal referrals. The Federal Reserve appears to have made zero criminal referrals. And the FDIC refused to answer the question.

Back in 1989, we established the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) as a United States federal agency under the Treasury Department to regulate banks and loan institutions. It replaced another federal agency that was faulted for its role in the savings and loan fraud crisis. The OTS was initially an aggressive regulator, but backed off in subsequent years.  It is funded by the industry it regulates, interestingly; it evolved into an auto-approval mechanism for the industry, more a partner than regulator.
It only took about a decade of Wall Street sponsored Federal deregulation to produce the Great Recession. "If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there'd be a shortage of sand." 
--Milton Friedman, American economist and Nobel Prize recipient

President Obama put the financial industry on notice, "My administration ... is the only thing between you and the pitchforks."  

To date, however, there have been zero CEO prosecutions despite tens of thousands of criminal acts by the finance industry leading up to the crash.

No enemy has caused greater destruction. Ever.
Mortgage fraud continues unabated, according to the FBI.