The Wall Street Journal reported on January 19 that the Obama administration was pushing heavily to get the 50 state attorneys general to agree to a settlement with five major banks in the "robo-signing" scandal. The scandal involves employees signing names not their own, under titles they did not really have, attesting to the veracity of documents they had not really reviewed. Investigation is revealing that it did not just happen occasionally, but was an industry-wide practice, dating back to the late 1990s; and that it may have clouded the titles of millions of homes. If the settlement is agreed to, it will let Wall Street bankers off the hook for crimes that would land the rest of us in jail - fraud, forgery, securities violations and tax evasion.
To the president's credit, however, he seems to have shifted his position on the settlement in response to protests before his State of the Union address. In his speech on January 24, President Obama did not mention the settlement, but announced instead that he would be creating a mortgage crisis unit to investigate wrongdoing related to real estate lending. "This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans," he said.
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