October 20, 2014
Reiss on Catching FIRREA
Inside ABS & MBS quoted me in Experts: New AG Likely to Continue Aggressive Use of FIRREA Against Industry, Individual Executives Targeted (behind a paywall). It reads in part,
Mortgage industry executives should be aware and expect continued – and perhaps even more muscular – use of a 1989 federal law by government prosecutors to pursue mortgage-related claims. At the direction of Attorney General Eric Holder, the Department of Justice embraced the use of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) in MBS lawsuits. Despite Holder’s announcement late last month that he is stepping down after six years as AG, there is little reason to expect that President Obama’s new attorney general will surrender use of such a “potent statute” that has employed a lower burden of proof and long statute of limitations to exact large tribute from the mortgage industry, according to Marjorie Peerce of the Ballard Spahr law firm.
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Brooklyn Law School Professor David Reiss agrees. He added that throughout President Obama’s term, the White House at the highest level has set an agenda for corporate accountability so it’s likely that one of the chief mandates of Holder’s successor will be the continuation of the DOJ’s vigorous use of tools such as FIRREA.
During a speech last month prior to announcing his resignation, Holder called for making the FIRREA statute even stronger, with whistleblower bounties raised to induce more testimony. However, Reiss noted it’s unlikely the White House would be keen to encourage lawmakers to take another look at FIRREA given that Congress next year will likely be in Republican hands.
However, Reiss called attention to a part of Holder’s speech where the AG expressed frustration with the DOJ’s inability to hold financial services executives criminally liable for alleged misconduct. Holder suggested several ways for the DOJ to do so, including extending the “responsible corporate officer doctrine” to the financial services industry.
Under this doctrine, an individual may be prosecuted criminally under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act even absent culpable intent or knowledge of wrongdoing if the executive was in a position to prevent the wrongdoing and failed to do so.
“Focusing on individual culpability could be a new charge of the new attorney general,” said Reiss. “Given the events of the last 10 years, [a significant number of] people think that fewer individuals were held accountable for the financial crisis than should have been, so I think the Department of Justice may have heard that message as well.”| Permalink