Another executive order. Another attempt to criminalize business practices. Another scapegoating effort by the executive branch.
I wonder if this little ad-hoc panel the president has formed has a clue about how the private sector works? Judging by the members who will be involved in going after the "culprits" who caused the financial meltdown, I sincerely doubt it:
Attorney General Eric Holder, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairwoman Mary Schapiro today announced that President Barack Obama has established by Executive Order an interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to strengthen efforts to combat financial crime. The Department of Justice will lead the task force and the Department of Treasury, HUD and the SEC will serve on the steering committee. The task force's leadership, along with representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities and inspectors general, will work with state and local partners to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, address discrimination in the lending and financial markets and recover proceeds for victims.
Wait just a minute here. Hold the phone; "address discrimination in the lending and financial markets"...? "Recover proceeds for the victims?" Unless we're talking about straight out financial funny business a la Bernie Madoff, do these clueless jamokes plan on once again forcing companies to grant mortgages to risky customers? Wasn't that one of the causes of the meltdown to begin with?
Just what is it these regulators want to prevent?
The task force, which replaces the Corporate Fraud Task Force established in 2002, will build upon efforts already underway to combat mortgage, securities and corporate fraud by increasing coordination and fully utilizing the resources and expertise of the government's law enforcement and regulatory apparatus. The attorney general will convene the first meeting of the Task Force in the next 30 days.
"This task force's mission is not just to hold accountable those who helped bring about the last financial meltdown, but to prevent another meltdown from happening," Attorney General Eric Holder said. "We will be relentless in our investigation of corporate and financial wrongdoing, and will not hesitate to bring charges, where appropriate, for criminal misconduct on the part of businesses and business executives."
"Through the Financial Fraud Task Force, we are making clear that the Obama Administration is going to act aggressively and proactively in a coordinated effort to combat financial fraud," said Treasury Secretary Geithner. "It's not enough to prosecute fraud only after it's become widespread. We can't wait for problems to peak before we respond. We're seeking comprehensive financial reform to create a more stable, safer financial system and stepping up our enforcement strategy. Doing so will help to stop emerging trends in financial fraud before they're able to cause extensive, system-wide damage to our economy."
The derivatives trading that got so many companies in trouble was stupid, not criminal. And anytime such a high powered bunch of government employees use the terms "proactive" and "We can't wait for problems to peak before we respond..." it sounds to me as if just about anything they decide is too "risky" will be criminalized.
Needless to say, such a broad mandate opens the door to political machinations in prosecuting companies and executives who might not toe the Obama party line. After all, if they are going to act before problems "peak," that could be interpreted as just about anything they want to criminalize.
Wall Street has much to answer for as far as getting us in this mess and taking advantage of the situation to enrich themselves. But this panel is real overkill and raises serious questions about just what Obama and his little band of anti-business zealots will do in the name of "regulation.