Obama's Mortgage Task Force: Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Maybe you're reading about it less and less. It doesn't seem to be the lead story on many national news broadcasts anymore. But it's still there, festering away like an untreated wound.

The foreclosure crisis and the morass of other problems surrounding persistently problematic real estate prices, unwise loans made to now-bereft homeowners, and predatory mortgage products and practices isn't going away. But this week, at last, there was some news. Unfortunately, the news by and large is that there is little news.

The New York Daily News just published an Op-Ed noting that 85 days after President Obama announced its formation in an impassioned speech, the new Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group (RM-BSWG) had done virtually nothing. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who the Co-chairs the group with Colorado U.S. attorney John Walsh, admitted earlier this month that the RM-BSWG had no office space and no staff. So… No one works there yet. (The piece was written by Arnie Graf, co-director of the Industrial Areas Foundation, and Mike Gecan, an IAF trustee. IAF was founded by Saul Alinsky and works as a coalition of nonprofits, in a model similar to Nader's PIRG network.)

Calls made to the Justice Department a few days ago, where the Working Group is legally housed, were fruitless as departmental operators had no clue as to just what the group is, or where it might be located. Reuters, however, had reported a few days earlier that a Justice Department official claimed that "the co-chairs meet formally every week and talk almost every day to coordinate on a range of investigations," and that "about 50 staff members are working on the effort, and the task force has identified separate office space in Washington and will move some personnel there." The Reuters article also noted that the working group "issued more than a dozen civil subpoenas to top financial institutions… [asking] for documents related to mortgage-backed securities offerings between 2006 and 2008." Really, it's hard to believe these two articles are about the same organization.

[Related: Read more columns by Adam Levin]

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