Maybe it's the fact that in another six months or so, the regime change here in the Land of the Free will lead many of the the current crop of enforcers in D.C. out the revolving door and into the loving arms of Big Law, where those wet behind the ears begin the learning curve with 15 grand a month of pocket money. Maybe it's the fact that they knew all along that they were pushing the envelope and, when called on it, they simply shrugged, smiled, and said "Ya' got me!" Whatever the reason, the U.S. Justice Department appears to be throwing in the towel several years earlier than my initial expectation, as a result of the US Second Court of Appeals decision that squashed the Justice Department's fraud claims against Bank of America that arose out of the former Countrywide Mortgage's so-called "Hustle" subprime loan program.
According to The Wall Street Journal, this week, the Justice Department sent letters to various former officers of Countrywide, including the infamous Angelo Mozilo (aka "The Tan Man"), that told them that Justice would do some justice by not filing any civil law suits against them.
Government lawyers sent letters within the past week to Mr. Mozilo and other Countrywide executives advising that the investigations against them were closed, and thanking them for their cooperation, these people said.
“We are pleased to see this investigation concluded without any further claim against Mr. Mozilo,” said his lawyer David Siegel.
I'll bet they are pleased. Mr. Siegel was sufficiently courteous to refrain from thanking the Justice Department back for providing years of legal work for defense counsel that has now resulted in the close of the investigation without criminal charges or civil lawsuits being pursued. For litigation attorneys, this is called "stroking the long ball." And, as ESPN's Sport Center loved to tell us, "Chicks dig the long ball."
To the "Occupy [Insert Venue Here]" crowd, this latest outrage will be further proof that the system is rigged in favor of fat cats and the bureaucrats who stroke them. On the other hand, those of us with actual experience in this area saw this coming years ago. From a September 22, 2009 blog post that discussed the outlook for folks like Angelo ever doing the perp walk:
Unlike the last round, when the savings and loan industry went into a tailspin, proving that CEOs and other senior executives knew about and encouraged, much less actively participated in, the fraud is tougher to prove in connection with the subprime mortgage mess. I recall a number of instances involving failed Texas thrifts in the late 1980s where there was ample evidence that thrift owners and senior executives were swapping dead horses for dead cows, making stock loans to an owner of another thrift to purchase 100% of the stock in his own S&L in return for the borrower causing his S&L to purchase a bunch of participation interests in the lender's portfolio of exquisitely ripe carcasses known as acquisition and development loans (in which the lender funded 100% of the acquisition and developments costs AND all of the interest reserve, leaving the borrower with as much equity in the collateral as a US congressperson's integrity). This time around, the CEO's and Chairman's muddy paw prints aren't stamped all over the lender's records.
"The problem is finding the executives' fingerprints on the consumer files," said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University. "Angelo Mozilo may have set the tone at Countrywide, but there is no way you're going to find his fingerprints on any of those mortgages."
Even Marg Helgenberger of CSI couldn't find enough CEO DNA in these files to make a case. I'd like to watch her try, though.
If you want to become completely bent out of shape about the relative lack of suffering inflicted on Wall Street and its cronies over their role in the meltdown, consider the fact that no one in Congress has had their wrists slapped, either. Barney Frank and Friend-of-Angelo Chris Dodd even managed to get their names emblazoned on a piece of "financial reform" legislation for all eternity, masking for future generations (who seem to have short memories in any event) the major roles those two actors played in the drama. When it comes to skating, it seems to me that most of the culprits had their blades finely honed.
Let's hope that the late British physician, Havelock Ellis, was wrong when he said “Every society has the criminals that it deserves.”