Last week, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman took his plea for more resources for the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities working group to the Wall Street Journal. “Do I want more resources, and want things to go faster? Yes, Am I asking for more? Yes. Do I believe we’ll get that? Yes.”
This is a request Schneiderman has made frequently in recent weeks—he said the same thing to the Congressional Progressive Caucus in late April. Over at the New York Times, Peter Henning sees this as an ominous sign. “His statement is hardly a ringing endorsement of the working group’s effort because it is a common refrain to blame a lack of resources for the absence of any real progress on cases,” Henning writes.
I’m not really convinced that Schneiderman is already priming the pump for defeat—it seems just as plausible he’s trying to spark some action, publically and inside Washington, to give the task force the juice it needs. (Though Henning does make some valid points elsewhere that what the RMBS working group has done points away from any criminal prosecutions and towards civil settlements).
But what resources, exactly, might Schneiderman be able to count on? What should progressives invested in the outcome push for?
The Department of Justice asked for a $55 million funding increase for “investigating and prosecuting financial and mortgage fraud” in its Fiscal Year 2013 budget request. We noted last month that the House did not include this money in the appropriations bill it passed.
Prospects are brighter in the Senate, however. In April, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed out a bill funding Commerce, Justice and Science that did include the $55 million increase. It passed by a 27–2 vote. The committee’s report details what this would be used for:
The Committee strongly supports the Department’s efforts to go after the schemers and scammers who prey on hardworking American families, and destabilize our neighborhoods and financial markets. The recommendation provides the requested increase of $70,680,000, for a total of $747,352,000, to combat economic fraud and white collar crime. Within this amount, the Committee provides the requested increase of $55,000,000 and 328 new positions, including 40 new Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] agents, 184 new attorneys, 49 new in-house investigators, 31 new forensic accountants, 16 new paralegals and 8 new support staff. These funds and positions will be disbursed among the FBI, the U.S. Attorneys [USAs], and the Department’s legal divisions to investigate and prosecute the most complex financial fraud, such as securities and commodities fraud and investment scams, and mortgage foreclosure schemes.