Archive for prosecute already

Elizabeth Warren Reads Riot Act to Holder for Not Prosecuting Big Bank Mortgage Fraud

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Elizabeth Warren gobsmacked

Today the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the Texas voter ID law. That is welcome news, and it's great to see Attorney General Holder step up like that. However, he needs to be equally aggressive with prosecuting bank mortgage fraud.

Your Daily Dose of BuzzFlash at Truthout, via my pal Mark Karlin:

Okay, so Senator Warren actually wrote a polite, detailed letter to Attorney General Holder. There was no shouting or acrimony. [...]

It may be professional in tone, but Warren's letter is a direct challenge to the criminal impunity and limited fines that the DOJ has provided to Wall Street and their multiple schemes to defraud both mortgage borrowers and investors.

The Huffington Post featured the letter, which bluntly states:

I am concerned that this might be yet another example of the federal government's timid enforcement strategy against the nation's largest financial institutions. I believe that if DOJ and our banking regulatory agencies prove unwilling over time to take the big banks to trial or even require admission of guilt when they cheat consumers and break the law -- either out of timidity or because of a lack of resources -- then the agencies lose enormous leverage in settlement negotiations.

There are a number of federal agencies involved in the lax regulation and minimal punishment (no jail time) of the financial industry for its role, particularly in the creation of a toxic subprime mortgage scam that played a key role in the economic collapse that burst open in the autumn of 2007.  [...]

However, some readers have written e-mails blaming mortgage borrowers for their own plights.  This may be accurate in some cases, but the massive defaults that have occurred have come from so many different kinds of lending fraud that it is difficult for the average consumer of news to keep up with them.  And it is proven that minority communities were targeted for fraud and manipulation by lenders.

To name just a few, banks targeted minority communities for second "balloon" mortgages without fully disclosing the terms or expanding mortgage payments.  Banks re-possessed homes through robo-signing of foreclosure notices without examining if the houses were actually behind in payments or the details of the chain of ownership.  Bank employees were told not to speak publicly about the deceptive practices employed to push usurious lending.   Banks would make "adjustment" agreements with some under the water homeowners only to sell blocks of mortgages to secondary lenders who wouldn't honor the agreements and, instead, sold the foreclosed homes and properties to investors such as the Blackstone Group. Even investors were not fully informed of the risks of bundled mortgages. [...]

One key factor that Warren alludes to is that by not appropriately applying legal sanctions against those who abused the mortgage system, citizens are left to think that the mortgage holders are solely at fault, because the DOJ is protecting the mortgage lenders rather than those struggling to save their houses, families and dreams from predatory and deceptive practices.

Please read the entire post here.

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Nonpartisan, independent review: "Indisputable" that U.S. under Bush practiced torture, had "no justification"

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torture cartoon

The Constitution Project’s task force on detainee treatment had no access to classified records. It was led by two former members of Congress with experience in the executive branch — Asa Hutchinson (Republican) and James R. Jones (Democrat) and concluded that the use of torture had “no justification,” “damaged the standing of our nation” and “potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel.”

There is another report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, 6,000 pages long, that covers the CIA’s record and is based on agency records, rather than interviews, but that one is still classified.

Here are some excerpts that confirm what many of us already knew: That the Bush administration should be prosecuted for what they did to human beings who they renditioned to secret black sites and then abused and tortured.

Via the New York Times:

A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.

The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning. [...]

The task force found “no firm or persuasive evidence” that these interrogation methods produced valuable information that could not have been obtained by other means. While “a person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information,” much of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says [...]

But the report’s main significance may be its attempt to assess what the United States government did in the years after 2001 and how it should be judged. The C.I.A. not only waterboarded prisoners, but slammed them into walls, chained them in uncomfortable positions for hours, stripped them of clothing and kept them awake for days on end.

It also confirms a report by Human Rights Watch that at least one Libyan militant was waterboarded by the C.I.A. The CIA has said that they only waterboarded three Al Qaeda detainees.

By the way, Asa Hutchinson, who served in the Bush administration as chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration and under secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, was a torture denier... until now. But he still believes BushCo "acted in good faith." Someone please tell me how one tortures "in good faith."

torture methods bush

So, President Obama, do you still want to “look forward, not backward”? Maybe this is why he is reluctant to check the ol' rearview mirror:

While the Constitution Project report covers mainly the Bush years, it is critical of some Obama administration policies, especially what it calls excessive secrecy.

Citing state secrets to block lawsuits by former detainees is part of that secrecy.

This article is a must-read. Please link over. And while you're at it, imagine your child being tortured...for years.

______________________________________________

here; That link includes one specific to only *Fayiz al-Kandari’s story here.

Here are audio and video interviews with Lt. Col. Wingard, one by David Shuster, one by Ana Marie Cox, and more. My guest commentary at BuzzFlash is here.

Lt. Col. Barry Wingard is a military attorney who represents Fayiz Al-Kandari in the Military Commission process and in no way represents the opinions of his home state. When not on active duty, Colonel Wingard is a public defender in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

If you’d like to see ways you can take action, go here and scroll down to the end of the article.

Then read Jane Mayer’s book The Dark Side. You’ll have a much greater understanding of why I post endlessly about this, and why I’m all over the CIA deception issues, too.

More of Fayiz’s story here, at Answers.com.

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VIDEO: Bernie Sanders Writes Law to Break Them Up: 10 Largest Banks Bigger Now Than Before Taxpayer Bailout

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banks too big to prosecute sanders v holder

Your Daily Dose of BuzzFlash at Truthout, via my pal Mark Karlin:

As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont)  charges in a news release issued from his Senate office:

The 10 largest banks in the United States are bigger now than before a taxpayer bailout following the 2008 financial crisis when the Federal Reserve propped up financial institutions with $16 trillion in near zero-interest loans and Congress approved a $700 billion rescue for banks that some considered “too big to fail.” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. now says the Justice Department may not pursue criminal cases against big banks because filing charges could “have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.”

“We have a situation now where Wall Street banks are not only too big to fail, they are too big to jail,” Sanders said. “That is unacceptable and that has got to change because America is based on a system of law and justice.”

[...]

As a result of this Obama administration economic injustice and the threat that letting the same rip-off artists who caused the American economy to collapse continue to run even bigger banks and financial entities, Sanders and his staff penned a bill. It's a short piece of legislation that gets right to the point in Section 3:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, beginning 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Treasury shall break up entities include on the Too Big To Fail List, so that their failure would no longer cause a catastrophic effect on the United States or global economy without a taxpayer bailout.

[...]

If you want your dose of restoring economic accountability and justice to America, watch the Sanders/Sherman news conference on the law that would break up the too big to fail banks, [in the video above].

Please read the entire post here.

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Shhh! FDIC made settlement deals with banks rather than sue-- and promised not to tell.

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banks too big to jailwhat's the big secret

Elizabeth Warren said, “When banks are too big to fail, too big to jail, too big for trial, too big to regulate, too big to shrink… they are just too big.”

Gee, ya think she's on to something? She also said:

This is wrong — just plain wrong. We are a country that believes in equal justice under the law — not special deals for the big guys. And that’s not all the special deals that the big banks get.

Which brings us to a rather lengthy L.A. Times above-the-fold front-pager that could have been subtitled:

shhh

[T]he government cut a deal with the bank's lawyers to keep it quiet: a "no press release" clause that required the FDIC never to mention the deal "except in response to a specific inquiry." [...]

Under the Freedom of Information Act, The Times obtained more than 1,600 pages of FDIC settlements, made from 2007 through this year with former bank insiders and others accused of wrongdoing. The agreements constitute a catalog of fraud and negligence: reckless loans to homeowners and builders; falsified documents; inflated appraisals; lender refusals to buy back bad loans.

Defendants benefit by settling because they can avoid admitting guilt and limit the damages they might face in court. The FDIC benefits by collecting money without the hassle and expense of litigation. The no-press-release arrangements help close those deals.

Here's what Quicken Loans spokeswoman Paula Silver had to say:

"Quicken Loans and the FDIC entered into a 'confidential' agreement nearly three and a half years ago which clearly states that no party admits liability nor wrongdoing."

Former bank examiner Richard Newsom, who specialized in insider-abuse cases for the FDIC in the aftermath of the S&L debacle, said he couldn't understand the shift, unless the agency doesn't "want people to know how little they are settling for."

And coincidentally, as I was writing this up, I spotted this tweet:

tweet fdic deals banks

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Elizabeth Warren: "When banks are too big to fail, too big to jail, too big for trial, too big to regulate, too big to shrink... they are just too big."

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elizabeth warren senate banking committee hearinggo get 'em

http://warren.senate.gov
Senator Elizabeth Warren's Q&A at the March 7, 2013 Banking Committee hearing entitled "Patterns of Abuse: Assessing Bank Secrecy Act Compliance and Enforcement." Witnesses were: David Cohen, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, United States Department of the Treasury; Thomas Curry, Comptroller, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency; and Jerome H. Powell, Governor, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Too big to fail has morphed into too big to prosecute. Attorney General Holder:

"I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that 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. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large."

Today, Senator Warren sent this email out:

Laffy--

Attorney General Eric Holder indicated in testimony before the U.S. Senate that some Wall Street banks have gotten so big that they are now above the law.

He actually said earlier this week:

I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that 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.

This is wrong -- just plain wrong. We are a country that believes in equal justice under the law -- not special deals for the big guys. And that's not all the special deals that the big banks get.

According to recent calculations by Bloomberg, the top ten biggest banks receive an $83 billion subsidy every year in the form of lower borrowing costs -- something not available to your community bank or credit union. The markets think that, if things get tough, the government will be there to bail out the big banks again but not the little guys.

To put things in perspective -- that $83 billion subsidy is about the same amount of money being fought over in the sequestration.

So why are we still debating this issue at all? Isn't it obvious that the "too big to fail" problem still exists and is bad for small banks? Bad for taxpayers? Bad for our economy? Bad for justice?

Here's one theory that worries me: maybe people believe that the banks have in fact become too big to shrink. They have started to say that we can't cut these banks down to size.

I'm not one of them, and neither are colleagues of mine like Sen. Sherrod Brown who have been fighting hard on this issue. We know we can take on the big banks and their army of lobbyists and win because we've done it before.

When banks are too big to fail, too big to jail, too big for trial, too big to manage, too big to regulate, too big to shrink, and too big to reform... they are just too big.

We're just getting started here.

Thank you for being a part of this,

Elizabeth

Have I mentioned how utterly thrilled I am that she's a U.S. Senator? We need 99 more like her.

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"We seem to have reached the point where we are discussing the value of torture rather than its morality."

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torture

Today's L.A. Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:

Re "Bin Laden movie heats up CIA torture debate," Dec. 14

With the arrival of "Zero Dark Thirty," a dramatization of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, we seem to have reached the point where we are discussing the value of torture rather than its morality.

We have moved from being a country that thrilled to James Cagney resisting Nazi torture to protect the secrets of D-day ("13 Rue Madeleine") to one that seemingly will embrace torture if it works. We were a country that condemned Hitler for the heinous invasion of Poland; just recently, we invaded Iraq on the pretext that we have a unilateral right to preemptive war.

And those who promote these new values claim the mantle of being the real Americans.

Robert Silver

Los Angeles

***

Questions: Does anyone dispute the fact the CIA has systematically tortured captives? Is there any reason to believe that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee had no knowledge of it? Hasn't torture long been a crime under both U.S. and international law? Why aren't those who authorized torture and the committee members who failed to stop it being prosecuted? And what's to prevent future cases of torture if today's perpetrators aren't prosecuted?

Jon K. Williams

Goleta, Calif.

***

I am deeply troubled that anyone would suggest there's a debate on the efficacy of torture.

In 1941, my father was waterboarded by the Japanese in Shanghai. He confessed that he was a British agent. It wasn't true, but at that moment, he would have signed anything to end his ordeal. Irrespective of whether the information garnered by torture turns out to be true, torture is a crime.

In 1948, the Japanese officer responsible for waterboarding my father was tried and convicted at a war crimes trials in Hong Kong. That same standard should be applied to the Americans who ordered or took part in waterboarding.

Ernest A. Canning

Thousand Oaks

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When the Financially Corrupt Were Tortured, Hanged and Beheaded

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Your Daily Dose of BuzzFlash at Truthout, via my pal Mark Karlin:

But we are a civilized society for those of the top 1% who defraud customers, the nation, and engage in risk taking for profit that undermines the world economy. Perish the thought of capital punishment, we don't even put those who oversee Wall Street financial malfeasance in jail; heck, we don't even charge them.

Yes, a few underlings, "guppies," are arrested now and then, but that is because their fraud was not large enough and was strictly personal (such as embezzlement). But if it is illegal activity on a massive firm-wide scale, then no one is held accountable. The financial giants just get a fine (if that even happens) that is less than the amount that they profited from their violation of regulations and the law, so they end up with a net revenue gain as a reward for their felonious behavior.

Zweig concludes, "Wall Street offers its risk-takers the potential to earn tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of dollars, when bets pay off, with no real penalties when bets go bad. Until – or unless – that culture changes, nothing fundamental will change." But he remains skeptical that holding individuals responsible for "too big to fail" illegal behavior will work.

That's his opinion.

In our book, it's still worth a try. Enabling the current double standard of putting a person in jail for kiting a few checks, but not even charging anybody for pre-meditated actions that lead to billions of dollars in fraudulent activity, well that's not only unfair; it results in a nation committing financial suicide.

Please read the rest here. I left out a lot.

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