Earlier this month, President Barack Obama announced in his State of the Union speech that the Residential Mortgage Backed Securities working group task force had finally been formed.
Our Miami foreclosure lawyers know that the foundation of this group was actually announced last year, though likely for political reasons, it never actually came to fruition until fairly recently.
This federal task force was put into place for the sole purpose of investigating and prosecuting criminal activity and fraud by Wall Street - namely, those individuals and institutions involved in the actions that led directly to the housing crisis in which we're still mired. The intended ultimate outcomes were two-fold: Justice for those who had wronged us as taxpayers and meaningful relief for homeowners who had suffered greatly. These firms, which literally dragged millions of Americans into foreclosure, must be made to answer for that.
So far, that hasn't happened - to the great frustration of countless homeowners, attorneys, journalists and advocates.
Last month, Frontline, produced by PBS, recently aired an hour-long chronicle called "the Untouchables" that investigated why Wall Street's top executives have yet to face any criminal prosecution for their clearly criminal actions. Reporter Martin Smith delves into why, finding that it had largely to do with impediments and road blocks thrown down by Obama's own Justice Department. The picture painted in countless interviews depicted the former leader of the departments' Criminal Enforcement Division as far more concerned with the rights and interest of the bankers, rather than the countless struggling homeowners.
Further, the oversight hearings that were organized by Congress, attempting to learn more about why the department had taken so little action in these cases, was something of a farce. Justice Department officials being "grilled" were given the questions prior to the hearing, giving them ample time to prepare canned responses.
And bank officials were routinely responding that they weren't aware of the inherent flaws in the internal practices that led to our economic mess. Even if that were true - which we don't believe for a moment - these were people who were raking in tens of millions of dollars annually. It was their responsibility to know.
That Justice Department executive is no longer at his post, but now questions have been raised about whether the Justice Department itself should be investigated for obstructing progress on these cases.
That isn't likely, but in the meantime, we've seen a slew of minor cases and settlements involving a patchwork of various government agencies, with no swift, definitive, meaningful action for those who have been harmed.
Even though many have up to this point criticized the RMBS task force as being a phony, it currently as we sit today has staff, investigators, pending investigations and funding. It's truly not too late for the group to take real action and fulfill its intended purpose.
Late last year, the working group did announce a civil lawsuit against Credit Suisse, alleging the firm deceived investors by misrepresenting its loan quality review process, costing losses in excess of $11 billion.
It's a start. We want to see more.