The public, still smarting from the crippling impact of the financial crisis, will be pleased to know that a collective effort that stretches across state and federal levels is working to bring a few of those at fault to justice.
That welcome effort should continue to gain support from federal partners and the president in seeing this mission through.
State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently announced the filing of a Martin Act complaint against Credit Suisse Securities LLC and its affiliates, accusing them of making fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions to promote the sale of residential mortgage-backed securities to investors.
Those securities were huge packages of investments based on what turned out to be nearly worthless mortgages. When the mortgage securities collapsed, many investors ended up bankrupt, and that contributed to the nation’s financial crisis.
The attorney general’s lawsuit claims that Credit Suisse deceived investors as to the amount of attention given in evaluating the quality of mortgage loans packaged into residential mortgage-backed securities prior to 2008. Under Credit Suisse’s purview in 2006 and 2007, those securities suffered losses of approximately $11.2 billion.
The Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, a state-federal task force created by President Obama earlier this year, is tasked with investigating those responsible for misconduct that contributed to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities.
In October, Schneiderman filed a Martin Act lawsuit against J.P. Morgan Securities (formerly known as Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc.), J.P. Morgan Chase Bank N.A. and EMC Mortgage LLC (formerly known as EMC Mortgage Corp.) for much of the same conduct– making fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions.
The Martin Act does not require the attorney general to demonstrate that the defendant intended to defraud and, in that vein, provides a powerful tool in the toolbox.
Schneiderman realizes the importance of partners in this pursuit, pointing out other members of the working group: the federal Housing Finance Agency Inspector General, which played a key role working with his office, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Justice and others.
All of this good work will be wasted without appropriate follow-up by federal prosecutors and regulators. Meantime, good job so far by Schneiderman and his colleagues.