Times: Feds to file suit against banks

In order for me to feel truly optimistic, I’d have to believe that these lawsuits are intended to break up the banks and bankrupt them, and of course that’s not going to happen. (Plus, I can’t help but notice this isn’t the Justice Department and we’re not seeing criminal charges.) So is this a real come-to-Jesus moment for the bankers — or kabuki? Are the feds really going to recover enough of the money they stole? Of course it would be good if they did, but nothing but some high-profile perp walks will really make up for the devastation these bastards have left behind:

The federal agency that oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is set to file suits against more than a dozen big banks, accusing them of misrepresenting the quality of mortgage securities they assembled and sold at the height of the housing bubble, and seeking billions of dollars in compensation.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency suits, which are expected to be filed in the coming days in federal court, are aimed at Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, among others, according to three individuals briefed on the matter.

The suits stem from subpoenas the finance agency issued to banks a year ago. If the case is not filed Friday, they said, it will come Tuesday, shortly before a deadline expires for the housing agency to file claims.

The suits will argue the banks, which assembled the mortgages and marketed them as securities to investors, failed to perform the due diligence required under securities law and missed evidence that borrowers’ incomes were inflated or falsified. When many borrowers were unable to pay their mortgages, the securities backed by the mortgages quickly lost value.

Fannie and Freddie lost more than $30 billion, in part as a result of the deals, losses that were borne mostly by taxpayers.

In July, the agency filed suit against UBS, another major mortgage securitizer, seeking to recover at least $900 million, and the individuals with knowledge of the case said the new litigation would be similar in scope.

Private holders of mortgage securities are already trying to force the big banks to buy back tens of billions in soured mortgage-backed bonds, but this federal effort is a new chapter in a huge legal fight that has alarmed investors in bank shares. In this case, rather than demanding that the banks buy back the original loans, the finance agency is seeking reimbursement for losses on the securities held by Fannie and Freddie.

And my contention that the only suitable response is jail time is validated by this:

But privately, financial service industry executives argue that the losses on the mortgage-backed securities were caused by a broader downturn in the economy and the housing market, not by how the mortgages were originated or packaged into securities. In addition, they contend that investors like A.I.G. as well as Fannie and Freddie were sophisticated and knew the securities were not without risk.

If there is no punishment, there is no reason to think they won’t do this, or something just as bad, all over again. Because obviously, they have no reason to think they can’t B.S. their way out of it. After all, it’s worked so far!

4 thoughts on “Times: Feds to file suit against banks

  1. i’m not sure if a criminal fraud prosecution against a bank would hold up. it’s really hard to get a conviction on white collar crime, and when it is against an institution (like a bank) and not an individual, a conviction doesn’t mean any jail time, just fines. which is why going with a civil action makes a lot more sense. instead of fines you can get a monetary judgment, but for many practical purposes they are quite similar. plus the burden of proof is a lot lower and juries are a lot more receptive to reimbursing the federal government for money the govt can show the banks took than imposing penalties.

    i wouldn’t call myself optimistic. but i do think that if the FHFA is serious about pursuing this and doesn’t let the banks out with a face-saving settlement, it will be a good thing.

  2. It’s leverage for a settlement of some sort. The purpose seems to be to lessen the damage to Freddie and Fannie, not to do anything for consumers.

  3. Foraker has it right–if those agencies had been run correctly in the first place, they’d have never bought the stuff.

    But when people running F&F are literally in bed with Congressmen, this is what you get.

  4. This is the Bankster Administration, so I don’t see any reason to believe that very much justice will be done.

Comments are closed.