Dealing with the "Dirty Dozen" Control Frauds
Simultaneously, we should put in place a system to replace the existing cover up of the condition of other banks with vigorous investigations and honest accounting. The priority for these investigations should be the "Dirty Dozen" -- the twelve largest banks. The Fed cannot conduct a credible investigation. It has taken so many fraudulent nonprime loans and securities as collateral that it is the leading proponent of covering up these losses.
The FDIC should lead the investigations (it has "backup" regulatory authority over all banks), but it should hire investigative experts to add expertise to its Dirty Dozen examination teams. The priorities of the teams will be identifying existing losses and requiring their immediate recognition (the regulatory authorities have the authority to "classify" assets that can trump the accounting scams that Congress extorted from FASB). The FDIC should prioritize the order of its examinations of the largest SDIs on the basis of known indicia of fraud. For example, Citi's senior credit manager for mortgages testified under oath that 80% of the loans it sold to Fannie and Freddie were made under false reps and warranties. The Senate investigation has documented endemic fraud at WaMu (acquired by Wells Fargo). The FDIC should sample nonprime loans and securities held by Fannie, Freddie, the Federal Home Loan Banks, and the Fed to determine which nonprime mortgage players originated and sold the most fraudulent loans. This will allow the FDIC to prioritize which SDIs it examines first.
We should also create a strong incentive for financial entities to voluntarily disclose to the regulators, the SEC, and the FBI their frauds, their unrecognized losses, and the officers that led the frauds -- and to fire any officer (VP level and above) who committed (or knew about and did not report) financial fraud. Any SDI that originated or sold more than $2 billion in fraudulent nonprime loans or securities should be placed in receivership unless it has conducted a thorough investigation and made the voluntary disclosures discussed above prior to the commencement of the FDIC examination, and developed a plan that will promptly recompense fully all victims that suffered losses from mortgages that were fraudulently originated, sold, or serviced.
We make three propositions concerning what we believe to be institutions that are run as "control frauds". To date, this situation has been ignored in the policy debates about how to respond to the crisis. The propositions rest on a firm (but ignored) empirical and theoretical foundation developed and confirmed by white-collar criminologists, economists, and effective financial regulators. The key facts are that there was massive fraud by nonprime lenders and packagers of fraudulent nonprime loans at the direction of their controlling officers. By "massive" we mean that lenders made millions of fraudulent loans annually and that packagers turned most of these fraudulent loans into fraudulent securities. These fraudulent loans and securities made the senior officers (and corrupted professionals that blessed their frauds) rich, hyper-inflated the bubble, devastated millions of working class borrowers and middle class home owners, and contributed significantly to the Great Recession -- by far the worst economic collapse since the 1930s.
Our first proposition is this: The entities that made and securitized large numbers of fraudulent loans must be sanctioned before they produce the next, larger crisis. Second: The officers and professionals that directed, participated in, and profited from the frauds should be sanctioned before they cause the next crisis. Third: The lenders, officers, and professional that directed, participated in, and profited from the fraudulent loans and securities should be prevented from causing further damage to the victims of their frauds, e.g., through fraudulent foreclosures. Foreclosure fraud is an inevitable consequence of the underlying "epidemic" of mortgage fraud by nonprime lenders, not a new, unrelated epidemic of fraud by mortgage servicers with flawed processes. We propose a policy response designed to achieve these propositions.
S&L regulators, criminologists, and economists recognize that the same recipe that produced guaranteed, record (fictional) accounting income (and executive compensation) until 2007 produced another guarantee: massive (real) losses, particularly if the frauds hyper-inflated a bubble. CEOs who loot "their" banks do so by perverting the bank into a wealth destroying monster -- a control fraud. What could be worse than deliberately growing massively by making loans likely to default, converting large amounts of bank assets to the personal benefit of the senior officers looting the bank and to those the CEO suborns to assist his looting (appraisers, auditors, attorneys, economists, rating agencies, and politicians), while simultaneously providing minimal capital (extreme leverage) and only grossly inadequate loss reserves, and causing bubbles to hyper-inflate?
This nation's most elite bankers originated and packaged fraudulent nonprime loans that destroyed wealth -- and working class families' savings -- at a prodigious rate never seen before in the history of white-collar crime. They created the worst bubble in financial history, echo epidemics of fraud among elite professionals, loan brokers, and loan servicers, and would (if left to their own devices) have caused the Second Great Depression.
Nothing short of removing all senior officers who directed, committed, or acquiesced in fraud can be effective against control fraud. We repeat: Foreclosure fraud is the necessary outcome of the epidemic of mortgage fraud that began early this decade. The banks that are foreclosing on fraudulently originated mortgages frequently cannot produce legitimate documents and have committed "fraud in the inducement." Now, only fraud will let them take the homes. Many of the required documents do not exist, and those that do exist would provide proof of the fraud that was involved in loan origination, securitization, and marketing. This in turn would allow investors to force the banks to buy-back the fraudulent securities. In other words, to keep the investors at bay the foreclosing banks must manufacture fake documents. If the original documents do not exist the securities might be ruled no good. If the original docs do exist they will demonstrate that proper underwriting was not done -- so the securities might be no good. Foreclosure fraud is the only thing standing between the banks and Armageddon.
We will deal with objections to our proposal in the next piece.