Is Obama Pointless?

obama3Is Obama Pointless?

At the time of his election, it would have been expected that the presidency of Barack Obama would have created a climate more favorable to business ethics. This did not happen. Business ethics were not in any way part of the White House’s agenda. Under Obama, even mild interest in prosecuting business crime is absent. Under Obama, corporate cooperation with the White House has been a continuing priority from the Affordable Healthcare Act to the bizarre HAMP plan to “help” struggling homeowners. Both were business ethics nightmares. The President had run on a platform of open government, and yet a few months after taking office met with the insurance companies and cut a deal insuring their participation and profits in the new healthcare act. HAMP was turned into a deadly and devastating weapon to be used against homeowners, the banks ceaselessly manipulating the rules to force homeowners out while collecting billions of dollars in fees.

I could go on. Where this President could have sided against corporations, but he has avoided this, and is an advocate of enhanced corporate power. If the trans-pacific trade deal were to go into effect, corporations would gain many of the powers of sovereign nations. As if, giant corporation do not have enough influence in the government, the treaty would allow them to sue nations to prevent rules such as regulations on pollution from going into effect.

This President has failed in his duty to protect the American people from corporate villainy, in particular the great Wall Street investment firms.

The lesson of the Obama administration is that influence is better than righteousness, connections than a commitment to the public interest and expediency more powerful than morality.

James Pilant

What the hell is Barack Obama’s presidency for? | Gary Younge | Comment is free | The Guardian

Barack Obama has now been in power for longer than Johnson was, and the question remains: “What the hell’s his presidency for?” His second term has been characterised by a profound sense of drift in principle and policy. While posing as the ally of the immigrant he is deporting people at a faster clip than any of his predecessors; while claiming to be a supporter of labour he’s championing trade deals that will undercut American jobs and wages. In December, even as he pursued one whistleblower, Edward Snowden and kept another, Chelsea Manning, incarcerated, he told the crowd at Nelson Mandela’s funeral: “There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.

If there was a plot, he’s lost it. If there was a point, few can remember it. If he had a big idea, he shrank it. If there’s a moral compass powerful enough to guide such contradictions to more consistent waters, it is in urgent need of being reset.

Given the barriers to democratic engagement and progressive change in America – gerrymandering, big money and Senate vetoes – we should always be wary of expecting too much from a system designed to deliver precious little to the poor. We should also challenge the illusion that any individual can single-handedly produce progressive change in the absence of a mass movement that can both drive and sustain it.

Nonetheless, it was Obama who set himself the task of becoming a transformational political figure in the mould of Ronald Reagan or JFK. “I think we are in one of those fundamentally different times right now where people think that things, the way they are going, just aren’t working,” he said. It was he who donned the mantles of “hope” and “change”.

via What the hell is Barack Obama’s presidency for? | Gary Younge | Comment is free | The Guardian.

From around the web.

From the web site, FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

http://tfoxlaw.wordpress.com/tag/obama/

Still this resistance may be changing. In an article in the New York Times (NYT), entitled “Obama Urged To Back Plan To List Owners Of Shell Firms”, Ravi Somaiya reported that “Anticorruption activists have urged President Obama to back a plan to publicly register the owners of shell companies in the United States and around the world, a move they say is essential to thwart corrupt government officials, tax evaders and money launderers who rely on an opaque financial system.” This problem has existed for several years in the US. Somaiya reported that “The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a bureau of the Treasury Department, estimated in 2005 that as much as $18 billion in suspicious transactions were made using international wire transfers that used shell companies in the United States.”

Somaiya also quoted Jack A. Blum, a lawyer and the chairman of Tax Justice Network USA, who said “These anonymous shell companies are used by everybody who steals money. Tens of thousands of shell corporations have been set up within the United States, he said, primarily in four states — Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming — that have loose regulations.” We know that the bad guys are selling the U.S. as a place to set up companies,” Mr. Blum said, citing its “aura of legitimacy.”

How does all of this relate to due diligence as the US problem would not seem to impact a company covered by FCPA? First of all, a company should know with whom they are doing business, and more pointedly a US company which is subject to the UK Bribery Act needs to recognize that any agent, distributor or other type of representative here in the US, is a foreign entity under the Bribery Act and needs full due diligence. While the jurisdictional scope of the Bribery Act has yet to be fully fleshed out, such a US company needs to consider its due diligence here in the US and may need to strengthen its investigations and background checks on such parties to comply with the Bribery Act.

From the web site, Deadly Clear.

http://deadlyclear.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/hamp-the-modification-scam-and-now-settlement-sham/

See, the banks are not in the mortgage business to loan, they are in it to default and profit by defaults; to collect servicing fees and bid on defaults in the market and to sell a house multiple times… until their investors got wise and wanted their money back.  Thus, the creation of TARP, and then HAMP, a scam to support the banks by foaming the runway, deceiving the mortgagors that they could actually get a modification while they paced the timing of their foreclosures. These bailout plans were never for you and me.

The banksters’ eyes must have burst into tears of joy when they realized they could use the already deceptive HAMP program to confiscate even more homes. The homeowners were promised modifications which neither the federal officials nor banks intended to give as the only intent was to slowly foreclose and parallel a modification program which they knowingly had no intention to approve. They went one step farther and found if they lied to the homeowner who was not in default or behind in payments and just wanted a modification, that they would gain the homeowners’ confidence and tell them to stop making payments for 3-4 months in order to qualify for the modification.

The banks knew full well that the homeowners would rely on the banks to be telling them the right thing to do. After the homeowner was in default (per the banks’ instructions – all verbal of course), the banks would foreclose on the homeowner instead of approve the modification.

The Banks Evade Responsibility Again

The Banks Evade Responsibility Again

Banks thrive, while homeowners still suffer | The Great Debate

A year ago the federal government and 49 states completed a $25 billion agreement with the nation’s largest mortgage servicers to settle claims of “robo-signing” and unlawful foreclosure practices. President Barack Obama announced the creation of the federal-state mortgage securities working group in his 2012 State of the Union address. The nation seemed on the verge of transforming the way banks treat struggling homeowners ‑ particularly those with “underwater” mortgages, in which a homeowner owes more than the house is worth.

These promises, however, have yet to be fulfilled. The latest interim report on the national mortgage settlement is due out this week, and banks will likely again declare that it offers proof that they are fulfilling their obligations. But the communities hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis have yet to see any meaningful relief.

Time is running out to ensure that these communities receive their fair share under the settlement. But it is not too late to provide meaningful assistance. The settlement monitors need to demand greater transparency from banks, and they need to see that banks comply with the fair-lending requirements set out in the agreement. They also need to aggressively police the servicing reforms to ensure that all homeowners get a fair opportunity to save their homes.

Banks thrive, while homeowners still suffer | The Great Debate

And from further down in the article:

Unfortunately, there is little transparency about how the banks are using this money. They have not provided any loan-level data to show which borrowers are receiving assistance.

Moreover, mortgage servicers have complete discretion over who receives help. Advocates fear the banks have been cherry-picking expensive loans that are deeply underwater to meet their settlement obligations quickly. This provides an important service for the borrowers in that category but little systematic relief for low- and moderate-income communities suffering the most from the foreclosure crisis.

Simply immune to prosecution?
Simply immune to prosecution?

The mortgage holders committed fraud for years making billions of dollars taking homes they had little or no claim to. They used the HAMP program as a weapon against homeowners, telling them to skip three payments so as to be able to qualify, then rejecting their applications or not bothering to even process them (not that we’ll ever know in most cases, the HAMP program kept no records for the first two years) and then quickly foreclosing on their homes. I’ve had students in my classes who were victims of that scam.

Instead of holding the perpetrators of these crimes accountable they were “sort of” fined 25 billion dollars through a program they administer and report on without effective oversight. Let me repeat that – they, the banks, administer the program to give back some of the money and homes they stole. Oh, forgive me, they are not giving the homes back just some money should they feel in some way that they want to because if they don’t want to, they don’t have to.

That is what passes for justice in the current administration and the 49 states that the bankers negotiated this sweetheart deal with. Crime pays in the United States if you are a banker dealing mortgages.

They stole billions of dollars worth of homes. They in an epic display of arrogance created a parallel system of recording deeds without any legal justification purely to expedite trading of mortgages and to evade filing fees. They lied to judges all over the United States in countless jurisdictions filing tens of thousands of false affidavits saying that their paperwork, their proof of ownership was in order.

These are crimes, not mistakes, crimes.

If I stole through fraud the least home in the land, I would and should do prison time. No one has been sentenced for these crimes. Without prison time, fines, that are a fraction of the money made, are the only deterrent. Is that enough? Does that make sense?

Two systems of justice – one for the bankers and one for regular citizens, the “common” folk, the ones without political friends; the ones that don’t have the right memberships, the right bank accounts, the right lives lived in the adoration of business television and magazines.

We discussed in my class on business law and business ethics what it takes to build a good society. One of the thoughts was to reward virtue and penalize wrong doing. What kind of society does this build?

I think you know the answer.

James Pilant

From around the web –

From the web site, Diane’s Blog:

Kamala Harris is right: we need a Homeowners Bill of Rights, and the banks, like it or not and they don’t,  need good, strong regulations to control them. These two items are bare minimums.  As for giving the money to individual homeowners, if it does happen, the amounts will be small because the numbers involved are so large. Better to allocate some money to homeowners’ advocacy and education groups.

From the web site, On the Frontlines of Americans with Debt:

The  five mortgage companies who are part of the settlement are Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, GMAC/Ally Financial, and Citibank.
While HUD estimates that 2 million homeowners could see their mortgage balances reduced, it will be up to the five banks to determine which homeowners will be included in the program.
In addition, payments of between $1500 and $2000 will be paid to people who lost a home to foreclosure between 2008 and 2011, so long as certain criteria are met. The factsheet does not explain the criteria necessary for those people to qualify.

And finally from the web site, Defend My Florida Home:

A major impediment to mortgage modifications is the bank practice of “dual tracking” mortgages.  When a mortgage is dual tracked the bank pursues foreclosure while at the same time allowing the home owner to pursue a modification.  The problem with this is that in spite of an eminent, or completed modification the bank will still sell a home at sale leaving the owner homeless.

 

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If a Highway Robber Has to Go to Jail, Why Does the Elite on Wall Street Get to Stay Home?

Phil Angelides

Will Wall Street Ever Face Justice? – NYTimes.com

Four years after the disintegration of the financial system, Americans have, rightfully, a gnawing feeling that justice has not been served. Claims of financial fraud against companies like Citigroup and Bank of America have been settled for pennies on the dollar, with no admission of wrongdoing. Executives who ran companies that made, packaged and sold trillions of dollars in toxic mortgages and mortgage-backed securities remain largely unscathed.

Meager resources have been applied to investigate the financial assault on our country, which wiped away trillions of dollars in household wealth and has resulted in 24 million people jobless or underemployed. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which Congress created to examine the full scope of the crisis, was given a budget of $9.8 million — roughly one-seventh of the budget of Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.” The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations did its work on the financial crisis with only a dozen or so Congressional staff members.

Will Wall Street Ever Face Justice? – NYTimes.com

Phil Angelides, the author of the above column, shares an identical opinion to mine. Justice has not been served.

I wrote extensively about the mortgage crisis back when business writers considered it a matter of a few small mistakes in the paperwork that weren’t worth getting upset over. I watched day by day as we learned about robo-signing, error laden foreclosures sometimes on homes that the client owned outright, and the use of a federal government program called HAMP to push people out of their homes and force them to pay outrageous penalties. The federal government did not even keep records of what HAMP was doing for the first six months and the fact that it was run by a twenty year bank veteran did not surprise. There wasn’t any fox in the hen-house, there was a rabid lion operating with permission to prey at will.

Millions of Americans suffered. Barely treading water, troubled by lost jobs, debts and predatory banks, the hard-working people of America were thrown an anvil by a federal government laden with former bankers in every conceivable position. It’s a sad story and reflects badly on the President of the United States who promised us better.

I was not surprised when the claims of homeowners and criminal prosecution of these mortgages companies were settled for a pittance. It would have been one of the saddest days of my life if in the months leading up to the settlement I had not experienced over and over again a federal government immune to the calls of justice and accountability. The settlement was just another nail in the coffin of fairness, a level playing field of law for the middle class and those who would prey upon them.

It remains to be seen whether or not a White House now deserted by its Wall Street Financial Backers will pursue a tougher attitude toward enforcement of the law.

James Pilant

Phil Angelides talk about the real cause of the financial shortcomings in state budgets

(Banksters are to blame NOT TEACHERS)

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Bank of America Forecloses on Santa Clara Woman After Telling Her to Miss Her Payments | | St. George News | STGnews.comSt. George News | STGnews.com (via )

How many times do we have to read this same story? Telling someone that they have to stop paying to access a federal program, encouraging them to believe that they are going to get a loan modification, when your bank has already decided that no one is going to get this kind of deal, and then foreclosing on them when they fall for the bait – is this they way banks are supposed to make money?

James Pilant

SANTA CLARA – Bank of America foreclosed on a Santa Clara woman’s home, despite her doing everything she was instructed to do in order to prevent it. Annette Lake resided in her house in Santa Clara from 1986 until May 24, 2011, when Bank of America foreclosed on her home. Just after her divorce from her husband was finalized in 2008, Lake was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was laid off from her job during chemotherapy treatments. She began ha … Read More

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The Mortgage Foreclosure Crisis Explained By Senator Whitehouse in a Series of Questions Posed to Secretary of the Treasury Geithner

Watch this exchange and observe how Geithner declines to deal with the issues. He answers questions that were not posed.

Do you see any evidence of concern for the homeowners being victimized in this mess?

James Pilant