When I was serving in the 82nd Airborne in Fort Bragg, NC, I prosecuted a Staff Sergeant for theft and fraud. The Staff Sergeant created multiple fake identities to redirect tens of thousands of dollars from the Army into personal bank accounts. He was convicted, and sentenced to jail time. He also had to pay back the money he had stolen.
That's the way the system works. When a thief is caught stealing, that thief must make his victims whole again. Of course, that ideal can be unfeasible. Sometimes the property is irreplaceable or the damage too extensive to undo. Even in those cases, or perhaps especially in those cases, it is the prosecutors job to ensure that justice be done to the fullest extent possible. The criminal must be held accountable, and the victim must be fairly compensated.
That is why I am outraged by recent accounts of a settlement between state Attorneys General, in cooperation with the Justice Department, and the banks accused of perpetrating one of the largest frauds in the history of our country. While the exact details have yet to be finalized, one thing seems certain -- this will be a fabulous deal for the banks.
After causing billions or even trillions in damages, this deal would demand little from those responsible. No jail time. Extended immunity from future prosecutions, essentially ending further investigations. And a $25 billion fine, possibly less than a penny for every dollar they stole from American homeowners.
The American people deserve better. We deserve a thorough investigation into the fraudulent, abusive lending and foreclosure practices of these banks. We deserve a settlement that takes a meaningful step toward rehabilitating the housing market. We deserve a good faith effort on behalf of the banks to make their victims, the American people, whole again. As it stands, the proposed settlement does none of these things. We must do better. We shouldn't stand for less.
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