Monday, September 29, 2014

Eric Holder Resigns

Here's John Cassidy at the New Yorker: Why Didn’t Eric Holder Go After the Bankers?
Amid all the coverage of Eric Holder’s resignation, I still haven’t seen a convincing answer to one question: Why didn’t the Justice Department, under his leadership, prosecute some of the senior bankers whose firms were largely responsible for the subprime-mortgage blowup and the Great Recession? It’s a gap in Holder’s record that historians will ponder at the same time they criticize his record on civil liberties, particularly his endorsement of the surveillance state, and praise him for trying to tackle some enduring problems in the American criminal-justice system, such as the imposition of long prison sentences for minor crimes and the scandalously high rates of incarceration, especially among minority groups.
Yes, John, if you ignore the fact that both Holder and Lanny Breuer (Assistant Attorney General, head of the DOJ's Criminal Justice division) came from white shoes criminal defense firm Covington and Burling, it might be difficult to answer that question.

And if you don't mention it in your article, you're doing a disservice to your readers. Scot J. Paltrow (Reuters): Insight: Top Justice officials connected to mortgage banks.

While Holder and Breuer were partners at Covington, the firm's clients included the four largest U.S. banks - Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo & Co - as well as at least one other bank that is among the 10 largest mortgage servicers.

A particular concern by those pressing for an investigation is Covington's involvement with Virginia-based MERS Corp, which runs a vast computerized registry of mortgages. Little known before the mortgage crisis hit, MERS, which stands for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, has been at the center of complaints about false or erroneous mortgage documents.

Court records show that Covington, in the late 1990s, provided legal opinion letters needed to create MERS on behalf of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and several other large banks. It was meant to speed up registration and transfers of mortgages. By 2010, MERS claimed to own about half of all mortgages in the U.S. -- roughly 60 million loans.

But evidence in numerous state and federal court cases around the country has shown that MERS authorized thousands of bank employees to sign their names as MERS officials. The banks allegedly drew up fake mortgage assignments, making it appear falsely that they had standing to file foreclosures, and then had their own employees sign the documents as MERS "vice presidents" or "assistant secretaries."

Covington in 2004 also wrote a crucial opinion letter commissioned by MERS, providing legal justification for its electronic registry. MERS spokeswoman Karmela Lejarde declined to comment on Covington legal work done for MERS.

A President doesn't pick people like Holder and Breuer for the top positions at the DOJ if he wants Wall Street criminals brought to justice...quite the opposite in fact.

That youtube is parody, of course, but it's also your answer, John Cassidy.

The actual Frontline piece was damning enough that Lanny resigned shortly after it was aired. (We needn't cry for him, he's back at Covington in the newly-created role of vice-chairman of the firm, his reward for servicing the clientele while at the DOJ.) And speaking of Bill Black:

William R. Black on Prosecuting Criminal Banker CEOs: Obama and Holder Don’t Even Care Enough to Fake It

P.S. Here's Mario A. Murillo on one of Holder's cases at Covington: Holder, Chiquita and Colombia. I find it notable for mentioning candidate Obama's opposition to our free trade agreement with Colombia as a reason for disappointment with his nomination of Eric Holder. Of course, Our President would forget about his opposition to agreements like this just months after he was sworn in.

Cross-posted at Whiskey Fire and Daily Kos.


mikey said...

I know you're focused on the Banksters, and I respect that, but the case against Bush Administration torturers is even easier. International law REQUIRES - doesn't encourage, doesn't suggest, requires - that nations either prosecute their torturers and those that ordered them to torture, or alternatively allows them to extradite them to a jurisdiction willing to prosecute them.

It was squishy until Obama said "we tortured some folks". At that point he was in violation of a ratified treaty and international law. And whatever Obama wanted, a truly independent DoJ would have issued indictments against at LEAST the CIA torturers, their boss, Cheney and his office and would have interviewed Bush as a material witness...

John E. Williams said...

"We're fucked" barely covers it

Anonymous said...

Guess what firm this board of trustees hired to advise them on dealing with their faculty.

Jim H. said...

Yes, it will always be baffling to me. Especially since EH has been a competent AG (compare, e.g., Alberto Gonzales) and a reformer (I'm thinking here of Meese, et al.).

Torture & tanking the U.S. + world economies should have had more priority. With respect to the later, tho', there are other jurisdictions, such as the Manhattan DA or states' AGs and even independent-minded U.S. Att'ys who've fallen down on the job as well. It's a systemic failure.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

For this post, I'm focusing on the banksters, mikey.

It irks me to see excuses made like, "The system is too big for Holder to change it." He and Breuer never stopped working for Covington and Burling. As A.G. and deputy A.G. in charge of the Crminal Division, they were extraordinarily well-placed to protect Covington's clients, and that's exactly what they did.

I have linked this piece many times: In a CIA Torture Case, the Only Person Punished is the Whistleblower

Jim H., the state A.G.s had no where near the resources that the DOJ could have brought to bear. It isn't that Holder and Breuer failed to make prosecuting the Wall Street crooks a priority: It's that they made protecting them their priority.

For example, when the New York A.G. Eric Schneiderman was making noises about doing something on his own, they co-opted him.