New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman returned to Up with Chris Hayes this weekend for the second time since President Obama named him as a co-chair to the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities working group, the federal and state probe into Wall Street malfeasance leading up to the financial crisis.
The first time Schneiderman appeared on the program, in late January and only days after his appointment, he was bullish about the investigation’s prospects. “We’re going after the stuff that blew up the economy in our working group,” he said. “We’re going after the possibilities of tax fraud, insurance fraud, securities fraud. We’re going to look at this stuff very closely. We have the jurisdiction, we have the resources, and we have the will.”
It’s been a rough four months, however—the working group has been beset by claims that it does not have the resources and may not have the will. And this time around, Schneiderman was subtly but definitely more bearish.
In mid-April, only fifty-five staffers were assigned to the working group, which also had neither a central office nor an executive director. In late April, forty members of Congress presented Schneiderman with a letter expressing fear that “this group’s efforts may be stalled” and that “public confidence in the Working Group may be at risk.”
On yesterday’s show, Schneiderman said more people have been hired, though he didn’t provide a number—and he seemed tired of answering the question and even called it a “non-issue.”
“I think there will be announcements about staffing and offices and all this stuff that ordinarily prosecutors don’t talk much about,” Schneiderman said. “In the next week or two [we will], as transparently as we can do, at least identify numbers of folks who are working on things just to get that non-issue off the table.”
Schneiderman also telegraphed that staffing levels won’t live up to progressive demands. (CREDO is calling for 1,000 staffers, equivalent to the Savings & Loan investigation of the 1980s.) “It takes time and it takes resources, but prosecutors all over America, all the time, go up against larger numbers of lawyers and prevail. It’s very importation to understand that this is very doable,” Schneiderman said.
Schneiderman wasn’t asked about Representative Brad Miller, who told me two weeks ago that he wasn’t selected for the job because the working group was afraid of industry blowback. The forty Congressional signees of the letter to Schneiderman asked that Miller still be hired.
When he appeared on the show in January, Schneiderman said, “If we don’t have some concrete results within six, eight months I’m going to be very disappointed.” On Sunday, while still promising results, he seemed to be keeping expectations for those results low.
“The big cases that everyone is waiting for, the big platform cases about a pattern and practice of conduct, they do take a lot of time,” he warned. “But I think there will be some cases on more limited but equally important issues that get brought more quickly.”
Throughout the interview, Schneiderman asserted the working group was active and would ultimately produce results. Hayes asked Schneiderman if he would resign should he determine the working group was nothing but a “dog-and-pony show,” and he said he would—“but I have no dogs and no ponies yet, just a lot of lawyers doing work.”