Make an issue out of this:
Three months ago, in his State of the Union speech, President Obama announced a new task force to investigate mortgage fraud and bring some measure of relief to the 12 million American families who are either losing their homes or in danger of losing them.
The new Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group would be co-chaired by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, U.S. Attorney John Walsh of Colorado and three Washington insiders from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Obama said, “This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.”
Whether or not the President, attorney general and others intend to get around to this task someday, “speed” was a terrible word to choose. Because 85 days after that speech, there is no sign of any activity.
The new working group was so prominently featured because of relentless pressure that Schneiderman and others — including the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation we lead — had exerted in the weeks leading up to the speech. Our position was that a $25 billion settlement with the big banks being pushed by the administration was just 10% of what was needed to repair the damage done to homeowners and communities by predatory banking practices.
Just a day before the State of the Union, an attempt by the administration to rally most of the nation’s other attorneys general to support the feds’ settlement with the banks had fallen flat. Schneiderman and his allies pledged to hold out until the administration agreed the settlement would not release the banks from further liability.
The ballyhooed working group was supposed to be the vehicle for continued scrutiny and pressure on the banks. To leave no doubt about the symbolism, Schneiderman was in the State of the Union gallery, seated right behind the First Lady.
But very, very little has happened since.