The start of President Obama’s second term may be his last chance to get justice for the millions of homeowners, taxpayers and investors who lost their homes, savings, pensions and livelihoods in the financial crisis. Holding Wall Street accountable is the right thing to do. And it’s a way to boost the anemic economy by bringing relief to those hit hardest by Wall Street.
But if it doesn’t happen soon, it never will. We call on the President Obama to take action during the first 100 Days of his second term to implement a bold and just agenda to secure his legacy as a President who respected the rule of law and helped the hardest hit, especially communities of color, stay in their homes.
The American people need the Obama Administration to use every available legal, enforcement and market tool available to keep the President’s promises by making Wall Street pay for its crimes and bringing relief and restitution to homeowners.
Make Wall Street Pay Us Back
We demand real restitution. Banks aren’t even living up to the terms of the settlements and deals they’ve cut to stay out of jail. We call on the Obama Administration to:
- Ensure that future settlements with lenders and servicers are commensurate with the damage actually done. Thus far the Administration has settled major, systemic law-breaking with what amount to parking tickets.
- Use the power of the Treasury, regulatory agencies, and law enforcement to ensure that promised relief (HAMP, Hardest Hit Funds, National Mortgage Settlement Settlement, etc.) actually reaches families and communities in need of help, starting with the communities of color and neighborhoods targeted for the most abusive lending practices.
- End the practice of allowing the perpetrators to administer settlements, and ensure that they adhere to fair lending practices.
Additionally, we call for Congressional hearings into use of the $26 billion settlement funds from last February, particularly the continued practice of dual tracking by lenders and a full accounting of every dollar disbursed.
Prosecute Financial Crimes
The Obama Administration’s record on criminal prosecutions of financial crimes is woeful. From zero indictments for securitization crimes to the more recent acknowledgement that even those banks guilty of laundering money for drug cartels and terrorists are “too big to jail,” the nation is still waiting for a measure of justice. In the first 100 days of his second term Obama should:
- Replace Lanny Breuer as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice with someone committed to holding Wall Street to the the rule of law, and instruct federal prosecutors to make investigation of crimes by financial institutions a top priority.
- Allocate 100 additional investigators to the RMBS Task Force established last year to investigate the crimes that led to the financial and mortgage crisis; publicly support and advocate for the task force’s requested $55 million 2013 budget allocation; and direct regulatory agencies to investigate and refer cases to the Justice Department.
- Establish an investigative unit at FDIC to launch investigations under FIRREA statutes, which are among the only remaining vehicle for bringing charges relating to mortgage securitization, since so many others are now past their statutory deadlines.
Keep People In their Homes By Resetting Mortgages
- We demand that the Administration act to keep people in their homes by resetting mortgages. Through its control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Federal government controls some $5 trillion in mortgage assets. Yet because of FHFA resistance they have blocked the single most important tool for fixing the housing market.
- Additionally we call on the President to replace Ed Demarco, finally and without further delay, with someone committed to resetting mortgages.
Resetting mortgages to fair market value will create $71 billion in yearly economic activity and over a million new jobs, in addition to helping America’s 14 million underwater homeowners.
Preserve and Expand Access to Housing
Besides resetting mortgage principal, GSEs should seek to keep families in foreclosed homes through rental or buy-back programs, and turn vacant homes into affordable housing development and community control, not sources of new speculation and profit taking by the very Wall Street speculators who caused the mortgage crash in the first place.
- GSE practices and servicer practices as regulated by federal agencies should discourage foreclosures, placing principal correction at the top of the list of options for helping distressed homeowners.
Many of these demands are extremely nuanced and detailed. They are also urgently needed. Investigators, resources and strong agency leadership – these are the lifeblood of change in D.C. We call on the President to implement bold, legacy shaping policies like resetting mortgages. And we call on him in his first 100 days to implement the critical changes he has the power to make today.
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