DE AG Beau Biden: Too Big to Fail Banks Believe the Enforcement Side Is ‘Scared’January 26, 2012
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden said yesterday on The Dylan Ratigan Show that he’d join a Federal task force on investigating the packaging sale of risky mortgages, but that his state would not join a settlement to deal with mortgage and foreclosure practices.
Delaware has a lawsuit pending against the Mortgage Electronic Registry Service, or MERS, for deceptive practices. Biden addressed the the need for law enforcement officials to stop talking and start acting.
“The too big to fail banks believe that many of us on the enforcement side are as scared or more scared than they are of peeling back the onion. If you start these investigations with the other side in this case the too big to fail banks believing that we are as or more scared about peeling back the onion as they are, that’s a fundamental, fundamental problem. And that’s why you see courageous Attorneys General like Nevada, Martha Coakley in Massachusetts to name two who are actually doing something.
We need to act here. Words are nice but they’re getting kind of old here. We need to act and investigate, file cases, file complaints, seek indictments if the facts take us there. We need to act. That is what people are sick and tired of — us talking about this.”
Jack McCabe also joined us in Florida on the segment, and talked about how so far, government actions to deal with the problem have been “like putting a band aid on skin cancer” and “throwing pocket change at a multi-trillion dollar problem.” Biden will join the Federal task force, but he has relevant questions.
“My questions on the investigations — and I’ve asked my federal partners this — I’ll be part of the task force, but the questions I have are how many FBI agents are you going to put to know? How many investigators? How many prosecutors? Those are the hard questions I have.”
These are good questions. Very good questions. Here’s the full video, and a rush transcript is below.
>>> well, good wednesday afternoon to you from the motel here in miami, florida. it is obviously stunningly beautiful down here let alone for january. this area a stranger in its own way to what is happening throughout the rest of the country and for that matter the very state in which it resides and for that matter much of america. i am dylan ratigan. it is a delight to be seeing you on this the second leg of our 30 million jobs tour. it does mark the beginning of week two. thank you so much for being with us. we've got a tremendous amount to cover in this particular hour including a recap obviously of the president's state of the union address where albeit briefly he addressed the massive housing crisis that is a huge barrier to growth in this country.
>> tonight i'm asking my attorney general to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigation into the abuse of lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis.
>> right on, mr. president. but it is time for more than rhetoric. and for the millions of struggling homeowners in florida and around the country the president offered this band-aid.
>> i'm sending this congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage by refinancing at historically low rates.
>> we need big solutions because this is an enormous crisis that we created in the actual boom years through the corruptive banking system and the reduced lending standards of the past decade. make no mistake about it. this problem is directly tied to our push for 30 million jobs. in fact, i can think of no single barrier to the functioning of our economy and our prosperity that our failure to resolve housing and our banking system. remember, for as long as the american dream has existed it has been homeownership. that has been the store of wealth and that dream has turned into an utter nightmare for too many in this country trapping them in effect. people cannot move now to where the jobs are because they cannot sell their house. and for many, they owe so much more than the house is worth that they could never recover it and as a result are fearful to move. these are called the under water homes. here in florida, that is almost half of all mortgage holders. let me repeat that. 50% of the people in florida with a mortgage are unable to leave their home to find work because they are under water in their mortgage. that is not only a tragedy. it is double the national average. that is why this if you will is a hot spot for the problems in american housing. what we need to hear from the president and from all of our leaders is a large scale collaboration with state ags in a much broader investigation that covers all facets of the mortgage industry and the more than $13 trillion in debt that we all still bear that was manufactured in that bubble. one of the state ags leading the fight for this investigation is delaware attorney general bo biden. also with us here in miami is jack mccabe a nationally recognized real estate analyst who runs the firm mccabe research and consulting and, bo, i'd like to begin with you. what is the domain of law, the authority of law that you or any attorney general has to conduct an investigation into the totality of the $13 trillion that is the debt in the housing market?
>> well, look. for me, as a chief law enforcement officer in my state, chief prosecutor and chief consumer protector, we have a broad jurisdiction. as you know, we filed a case against kind of the nerve system of the entire mortgage backed security process, the mortgage electronic registration system. we can delve into origination, securitization, the servicing pieces. most ags across the country have the same jurisdictions. eric schneiderman in new york has the martin act which has broad, broad, the broadest securities jurisdiction. so that's why it's so important as you said for us to work in a collaborative way and work together and to hold those people who are accountable to feet to the fire and beyond the accountability we don't, if we don't resolve this we'll never get to 30 million jobs. jack, give us a sense of what the liability is of failing to resolve housing in florida and for that matter the country.
>> we're looking at a sideways economy similar that japan had for a decade. right now here in florida we're five going on six years into continued dropping prices, unemployment that's right around 10%. got as high as 12.4%. we have people that can't move for jobs. we have people that can't sell their homes because they don't have the money to come up with to pay the bank off for what they owe from what they can sell it for.
>> and we spoke yesterday with elliot spitzer among other people about why we don't really want to deal with this. why the republicans don't like to talk about it at all and why the democrats when they do talk about it do so very cautiously. quite simply, if we were to reveal the potential fraud in the $13 trillion worth of debt, that could precipitate a meaningful restructuring in the banking apparatus, in the entire banking system. how do you manage the necessary ruthlessness to do this and still have the necessary compassion to know that you don't want to bring the banking system to its knees any more than you want to bring the american homeowner to their knees?
>> you hit it on the head, dylan and said it better than i can. but here is the issue. i'm a prosecutor. any time i'm prosecuting somebody they need to know that i'm more eager to get to the bottom of the facts than they are. and that i will. the situation we have had here quite frankly and this goes across all party lines and a whole host of entities, that the other side, specifically the too big to fail banks believe, this is me just speaking, believe that many of us on the enforcement side are as scared or more scared than they are of peeling back the onion. if you start these investigations with the other side in this case the too big to fail banks believing that we are as or more scared about peeling back the onion as they are, that's a fundamental, fundamental problem. and that's why you see courageous attorneys general like nevada, martha koklian in massachusetts two name two who are actually doing something. we need to act here. words are nice but they're getting kind of old here. we need to act and investigate, file cases, file complaints, seek indictments if the facts take us there. we need to act. that is what people are sick and tired of. us talking about this.
>> air nodding.
>> absolutely. we've seen a lot of rhetoric from out of washington in the last three years but all they've done is put a band-aid on skin cancer and thrown pocket change at a multi trillion dollar problem. things are not getting any better. people are hurting in this country and they don't get it in washington. they need to do something to help the american home owner and all they're saying is let the market work out is what the gop says. what the current administration is saying is, we'll give you a little bit of money. here's $ 1200 from a class action suit. it probably isn't half of what your mortgage payment is. and god bless you. good luck.
>> go ahead?
>> that's why i said, when asked earlier this week by the members of the press corps following this issue that i'm not onboard for this settlement. you know, it's simply from my perspective i can't do the complaint i filed in chancery court here in the state of delaware last fall which goes i think to the nerve center of the entire industry but i can't sign on to other aspects of this settlement. that's why i made it clear to my federal partners and my state colleagues that i'm not onboard for the settlement as it's drafted. i think it speaks to the -- you spoke jack to the issues as to why it is problematic. from my perspective there is not sufficient accountability. there's not sufficient relief. it doesn't move the ball. it doesn't move the economy. and most importantly it doesn't get to the bottom of the facts. look, you cannot -- you cannot, you cannot when you're investigating things give away a -- that is allow the party you're opposing to flee to the easiest issue. that is take the plea on the easy crime before you have investigated the big crimes. my analogy is, dylan, this is like a consumer protection case. you can analogize it to criminal cases or consumer protection. you cannot have a situation where you say in a home improvement scheme that, look. i know you've got us on the wiring. you know, you know you've got us on that but we also built the foundation. we also built the roof. and, you know, we also have other problems. we'll settle for you on the wiring issue but as long as you settle on the roof and foundation and give us a plea on that. you can't -- you just can't do investigations that way where you give away the wine -- look. this is the one thing the banks have admitted to on the servicing side. how do you let them take a plea or a settlement to that before you've gotten to the bigger stuff?
>> and just for the benefit of everybody that's enrolled in this conversation, for proportionality, the uninvestigated liabilities in housing amount to according to the federal reserve$13.5 trillion. that is $13.5 trillion. remember, if you spend a million dollars a day every day since jesus christ was born you would not spend a trillion dollars just to give you the size of that number. meanwhile the settlement they're talking about is $25 billion with a "b" which is less than 0.2 of 1% of the safe harbor i presume, beau, that is the sort of data you're looking at, the wiring if you will is that 0.2 of a percent without the investigation into the foundation and the roof. correct?
>> that is exactly right. look. they don't believe that too big to fail banks, and i'll probably get a lot of hate mail for this but so be it. too big to fail banks simply don't believe we have the guts to get to the bottom of this. and i'll tell you, my little office, we're going to keep plugging away on this. you're going to see connell o'harris continue her hard work, martha coakley none of whom i speak for but all of whom i respect continue to work on this. i applaud the president's comments last night and the resolve to continue investigations. my questions on the investigations, and i've asked my federal partners this, i'll be part of the task force, but the questions i have is how many fbi agents are you going to put to know? how many investigators? how many prosecutors? those are the hard questions i have. i told those folks i'm willing to work with them on this. i am happy to do it and i hope we'll get somewhere on this.
>> you couldn't have more whole hearted support from certainly jack and myself and i suspect quite candidly hundreds of millions of americans, the simple act of finding out what actually happened and identifying the fraud and the transfer of the potential fraud that is as yet uninvestigated from the individual and the banks to our government is perhaps the case of our time and of our generation. your office may be small but it is mighty and we appreciate that.