It was during Barack Obama’s third month in the White House, when I realized he had become the “Disappointer-In-Chief”. Since that time, the disappointment felt by many of us has progressed into a bad case of the creeps.
Gretchen Morgenson of The New York Times has been widely praised for her recent report, exposing the Obama administration’s vilification of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for his refusal to play along with Team Obama’s efforts to insulate the fraud-closure banks from the criminal prosecution they deserve. The administration is attempting to pressure each Attorney General from every state to consent to a settlement of any and all claims against the banksters arising from their fraudulent foreclosure practices. Each state is being asked to release the banks from criminal and civil liability in return for a share of the $20 billion settlement package. The $20 billion is to be used for loan modifications. Leading the charge on behalf of the administration are Shaun Donovan, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, as well as a number of high-ranking officials from the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Eric Hold-harmless. Here are some highlights from Ms. Morgenson’s article:
Mr. Schneiderman and top prosecutors in some other states have objected to the proposed settlement with major banks, saying it would restrict their ability to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing in a variety of areas, including the bundling of loans in mortgage securities.
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Mr. Schneiderman has also come under criticism for objecting to a settlement proposed by Bank of New York Mellon and Bank of America that would cover 530 mortgage-backed securities containing Countrywide Financial loans that investors say were mischaracterized when they were sold.
The deal would require Bank of America to pay $8.5 billion to investors holding the securities; the unpaid principal amount of the mortgages remaining in the pools totals $174 billion.
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This month, Mr. Schneiderman sued to block that deal, which had been negotiated by Bank of New York Mellon as trustee for the holders of the securities.
The passage from Gretchen Morgenson’s report which drew the most attention concerned a statement made to Schneiderman by Kathryn Wylde. Ms. Wylde is a “Class C” Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The role of a Class C Director is to represent the interests of the public on the New York Fed board. Barry Ritholtz provided this reaction to Ms. Wylde’s encounter with Mr. Schneiderman:
If the Times report is accurate, and the quote below represents Ms. Wylde’s comments, than that position is a laughable mockery, and Ms. Wylde should resign effective immediately.
The quote in question, which was reported to have occurred at Governor Hugh Carey’s funeral (!?!) was as follows:
“It is of concern to the industry that instead of trying to facilitate resolving these issues, you seem to be throwing a wrench into it. Wall Street is our Main Street — love ’em or hate ’em. They are important and we have to make sure we are doing everything we can to support them unless they are doing something indefensible.”
I do not know if Ms. Wylde understands what her proper role should be, but clearly she is somewhat confused. She appears to be far more interested in representing the banks than the public.
Robert Scheer of Truthdig provided us with some background on Obama’s HUD Secretary, Shaun Donovan, one of the administration’s arm-twisters in the settlement effort :
Donovan has good reason not to want an exploration of the origins of the housing meltdown: He has been a big-time player in the housing racket for decades. Back in the Clinton administration, when government-supported housing became a fig leaf for bundling suspect mortgages into what turned out to be toxic securities, Donovan was a deputy assistant secretary at HUD and acting Federal Housing Administration commissioner. He was up to his eyeballs in this business when the Clinton administration pushed through legislation banning any regulation of the market in derivatives based on home mortgages.
Armed with his insider connections, Donovan then went to work for the Prudential conglomerate (no surprise there), working deals with the same government housing agencies that he had helped run. As The New York Times reported in 2008 after President Barack Obama picked him to be secretary of HUD, “Mr. Donovan was a managing director at Prudential Mortgage Capital Co., in charge of its portfolio of investments in affordable housing loans, including Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Administration debt.”
Obama has been frequently criticized for stacking his administration with people who regularly shuttle between corporations and the captured agencies responsible for regulating those same businesses. Risk management guru, Christopher Whalen lamented the consequences of Obama’s cozy relationship with the Wall Street banks – most tragically, those resulting from Obama’s unwillingness to adopt the “Swedish solution” of putting the insolvent zombie banks through temporary receivership:
The path of least resistance politically has been to temporize and talk. But by following the advice of Rubin and Summers, and avoiding tough decisions about banks and solvency, President Obama has only made the crisis more serious and steadily eroded public confidence. In political terms, Obama is morphing into Herbert Hoover, as I wrote in one of my first posts for Reuters.com, “In a new period of instability, Obama becomes Hoover.”
Whereas two or three years ago, a public-private approach to restructuring insolvent banks could have turned around the economic picture in relatively short order, today the cost to clean up the mess facing Merkel, Obama and other leaders of western European nations is far higher and the degree of unease among the public is growing. You may thank Larry Summers, Robert Rubin and the other members of the “do nothing” chorus around President Obama for this unfortunate outcome.
We are now past the point of blaming Obama’s advisors for the President’s recurrent betrayal of the public interest while advancing the goals of his corporate financiers. Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism has voiced increasingly harsh appraisals of Obama’s performance. By August 22, it became clear to Ms. Smith that the administration’s efforts to shield the fraud-closure banks from liability exposed a scandalous degree of venality:
It is high time to describe the Obama Administration by its proper name: corrupt.
Admittedly, corruption among our elites generally and in Washington in particular has become so widespread and blatant as to fall into the “dog bites man” category. But the nauseating gap between the Administration’s propaganda and the many and varied ways it sells out average Americans on behalf of its favored backers, in this case the too big to fail banks, has become so noisome that it has become impossible to ignore the fetid smell.
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Team Obama bears all the hallmarks of being so close to banks and big corporations that it has lost all contact with and understanding of mainstream America.
The latest example is its heavy-handed campaign to convert New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman to a card carrying member of the “be nice to our lords and masters the banksters” club. Schneiderman was the first to take issue with the sham of the so-called 50 state attorney general mortgage settlement. As far as the Administration is concerned, its goal is to give banks a talking point and prove to them that Team Obama is protecting their backs in a way that the chump public hopefully won’t notice.
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Yet rather than address real, serious problems, senior administration officials are instead devoting time and effort to orchestrating a faux grass roots campaign to con a state AG into thinking his supporters are deserting him because he has dared challenge the supremacy of the banks.
I would include Eric Schneiderman in a group with Elizabeth Warren and Maria Cantwell as worthy challengers to Barack Obama in the 2012 Presidential Election. I wish one of them would step forward.