Nearly half a year has passed since President Obama announced the creation of the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities working group in his State of the Union address, a task force that would investigate big financial firms for their role in the 2008 crash.
Yet, unbelievably, we’re still talking about how many resources the task force will have and how many people it will hire—not about any subpoenas nor indictments. And this is as the statute of limitations is running out on a wide variety of that pre-crash behavior, as the Wall Street Journal noted again today.
A collection of housing rights groups that heralded the creation of the RMBS working group in January is now throwing down the gauntlet—declaring today on a conference call that officials at the Department of Justice “are not taking this investigation seriously, nor…are they giving it the resources it needs to proceed,” in the words of Campaign for a Fair Settlement’s Brian Kettenring.
His group released a white paper showing that despite an obvious spike in Wall Street malfeasance and crises, prosecutions for financial crime are down 57.7 percent from twenty years ago. It also showed that the staffing for RMBS group is far below what existed for the Savings & Loan investigation and is roughly on par with the resources the Department of Justice dedicated to the investigation into whether Roger Clemens lied to Congress about steroid abuse.
The New Bottom Line, meanwhile, released a petition calling on the Attorney General to dedicate more resources to the task force. “Attorney General Holder is betraying the America public and Lady Justice herself by not putting the full investigation and staffing power at his disposal into this task force,” said Tracy Van Slyke of the New Bottom Line.
Polls show President Obama is vulnerable among independent voters in swing states on the issue of being too soft on Wall Street crime—69 percent of independent voters in Nevada, for example, hold that view.
The activists aim to make it a political necessity for Obama get the RMBS working group more resources—if the public is made aware that the investigation into financial crimes is being slow-walked, it would be a lot more difficult for Obama’s campaign to push the narrative that Mitt Romney is a protector of Wall Street. Said Van Slyke:
With this election season, underwater homeowners are now underwater voters. And with more than 15 million underwater homeowners, that’s a lot of voters. So the New Bottom Line is going to be engaging both the Obama and Romney campaigns in key swing states and targeted Congressional districts in a multi-layered online, media and on-the-ground campaign forcing the politicians to lay their cards on the table and really talk about what they’re going to do to deal with the housing crisis and our economy, and how they’re going to hold bank criminals responsible.