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Inside Washington (04/14/2011)
* WASHINGTON (4/15/11)--Concluding a two-year bipartisan investigation, Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), chairman and ranking Republican on the Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations Wednesday released a 635-page final report on their inquiry into the primary causes of the financial crisis. The report catalogs conflicts of interest, heedless risk-taking and failures of federal oversight that helped push the country into the deepest recession since the Great Depression. “High risk lending, regulatory failures, inflated credit ratings, and Wall Street firms engaging in massive conflicts of interest contaminated the U.S. financial system with toxic mortgages and undermined public trust in U.S. markets,” said Levin. The Levin-Coburn report expands on evidence gathered at four subcommittee hearings in April 2010, examining four aspects of the crisis through detailed case studies: high-risk mortgage lending, using the case of Washington Mutual Bank, a $300 billion thrift that became the largest bank failure in U.S. history; regulatory inaction, focusing on the Office of Thrift Supervision’s failed oversight of Washington Mutual; inflated credit ratings that misled investors, examining the actions of the nation’s two largest credit rating agencies, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s; and the role played by investment banks, focusing primarily on Goldman Sachs, in creating and selling structured finance products that foisted billions of dollars of losses on investors, while the bank itself profited from betting against the mortgage market … * WASHINGTON (4/15/11)--U.S. regulators on Wednesday announced enforcement actions on 14 large banks to address negligence residential mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure processing. The orders did not include fines, though the Federal Reserve said it plans to announce monetary sanctions at a later date. Some attorneys general and administration officials urged agencies to fine big banks $20 billion or dedicate a like amount to modifying distressed mortgages (The Wall Street Journal April 14). The actions taken Wednesday require each servicer to take a number of actions, including making significant revisions to certain residential mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure processing practices. Each servicer must, among other things, strengthen coordination of communications with borrowers by providing borrowers the name of the person at the servicer who is their primary point of contact; ensure that foreclosures are not pursued once a mortgage has been approved for modification unless repayments are not made; establish controls and oversight over the activities of third-party vendors; provide remediation to borrowers who suffered financial injury as a result of wrongful foreclosures or other deficiencies identified in a review of the foreclosure process; and strengthen programs to ensure compliance with state and federal laws regarding servicing and foreclosures Observers cautioned that the orders could make it more difficult for state attorneys general to extract greater concessions from the banks. Iowa's attorney general said it would not change his state’s approach in negotiations …


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