It must’ve been like old home week when the old gang of Wall Street and Washington insiders finalized a couple more cushy settlements last week.
Everybody knew the drill: Ignore the potential criminal charges and agree on settlement figures they think the public will swallow – figures that are big enough to sound impressive but far smaller than the banks’ ill-gotten gains. They’ve done this dozens of times before.
But there was an empty chair at the negotiating table.
Bank of America was there, as it has been so many times before. So were the other too-big-to-fail banks. Representatives from the Attorney General’s office were undoubtedly there, too. The Attorney General was a high-priced Wall Street attorney.
The banks’ “independent” reviewers were there, too, or at least their reports were. Those reports said that there were very few problems with the banks’ transactions. That should’ve have raised some red flags around the negotiating table: An audit in San Francisco found that 84 percent of foreclosures were performed illegally, while another in North Carolina found “singular irregularities” in roughly three-quarters of the mortgages reviewed.