Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

October 24, 2013

Reiss on Countrywide Verdict

By David Reiss

Law360 interviewed me in DOJ’s Countrywide Win Could Force More Bank Settlements (behind a paywall).  The story opens

The U.S. Department of Justice’s victory in a case against Bank of America Corp.’s Countrywide subsidiary over a housing-bubble-era mortgage program shows the power of a 1980s fraud statute, and could further encourage banks to settle future financial crisis cases, attorneys say.

A federal jury in New York on Wednesday unanimously found that Countrywide Financial Corp. and one of its former executives defrauded Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac through a program designed to speed up mortgage issuing in 2007 and 2008.

The court victory was significant in part because of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s use of the Financial Institutions Reform Recovery and Enforcement Act, a law that grew out of the 1980’s savings-and-loan crisis, to bring a case over the 2007-09 financial crisis. With a fairly low standard of proof and a 10-year statute of limitations, a jury’s verdict based on FIRREA bodes well for future government cases, said Brooklyn Law School professor David Reiss.

“This successful use of FIRREA makes it much more likely that financial institutions are going to settle with the government,” he said.

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