The Federal government and the Attorneys General from 49 states have signed a deal with five major banks over charges of fraud, including reported acts of widespread perjury and forgery, in the so-called "robo-signing" scandal.
The banks engaged in a years' long pattern of what can only be described as fraudulent if not criminal conduct that would put anyone else in prison for years if not decades, yet banks get to buy off the cops with some money to help just a few of the victims they created.
This settlement is yet another demonstration of who wields power in America, and it isn't you and me. It's bad enough to see these negotiations come to their predictable, sorry outcome. It adds insult to injury to see some try to depict it as a win for long suffering, still abused homeowners.
We'll win some but we'll lose some, and some of the time we will do both at the same time. That is the story of the robo-signing settlement that has finally become a done deal after many long months of struggle over it.
For about 16 months, we have been hearing that the settlement talks with the big banks are just about to close, but they never do, and it's clear that the major holdup now is bankers crying themselves a river, weeping, moaning, and gnashing their teeth.
If we want crooks behind bars -- and if want to stop future financial crimes -- we need to rebuild the foundation for effective prosecutions by appointing regulators who believe in the mission and have a proven record of success.
Given the administration's feeble record on prosecutions to date, the critics are right to flag the likelihood that people like Attorney General Eric Holder and SEC enforcement chief Robert Khazumi will try to sandbag Eric Schneiderman. But they shouldn't underestimate him.
If Obama wants to run against Wall Street in the 2012 campaign, he needs credibility to do it, and he took a big step toward getting it last night. But victory can't be declared until the banks actually move several hundred billion in mortgage writedowns, and some indictments are issued.
Patti Smith wasn't wrong when she sang that "People have the powe." We do have the power to win a battle or two, even against those guys on Wall Street. We have more power than we realize -- but only if we're willing to use it.