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President Obama’s Mortgage Fraud Working Group Has Struggled To Get Off The Ground

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"President Obama’s Mortgage Fraud Working Group Has Struggled To Get Off The Ground"

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Last month, McClatchy reported that the Obama administration’s oil speculation task force had met just a “handful” of times, doing basically nothing to stop the rampant speculation that is helping push up gas prices. And evidently that is not the only task force having a hard time getting off the ground.

According to Mike Gecan and Arnie Graf of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, part of the nation’s largest network of multi-faith community organizations, President Obama’s mortgage fraud task force — which was announced during this year’s State of the Union and is headed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneidermann (D-NY) — still has “no office, no phones, no staff, and no executive director”:

On March 9 — 45 days after the speech and 30 days after the announcement — we met with Schneiderman in New York City and asked him for an update. He had just returned from Washington, where he had been personally looking for office space. As of that date, he had no office, no phones, no staff and no executive director. None of the 55 staff members promised by Holder had materialized. On April 2, we bumped into Schneiderman on a train leaving Washington for New York and learned that the situation was the same.

Tuesday, calls to the Justice Department’s switchboard requesting to be connected with the working group produced the answer, “I really don’t know where to send you.” After being transferred to the attorney general’s office and asking for a phone number for the working group, the answer was, “I’m not aware of one.”

Last week, Reuters reported that “the task force has identified” office space and is planning a move there shortly:

The task force includes the Justice Department, the SEC, the FBI and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, among others. It is charged with investigating the pooling and sale of home loans that contributed to the financial crisis.

While the group faced some skepticism, considering the crisis began nearly five years ago, there are signs it is serious about bringing cases.

The co-chairs meet formally every week and talk almost every day to coordinate on “a range of investigations,” a Justice Department official said, on condition of anonymity.

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 official said.

The Justice Department last month posted a one-year position of full-time coordinator for the working group who could help manage discovery and coordinate investigations, according to the job posting.

A recent report showed that mortgage foreclosure scams have spiked 60 percent in 2012, while the nation’s biggest banks continue to sit upon a slew of fraudulent mortgage documents. A recent investigation of foreclosures in San Francisco found that nearly all of them had legal problems or suspicious documents, prompting the city council to suggest a foreclosure moratorium.

Update

The title has been changed to reflect Reuters’ reporting that dedicated office space and staff are in the process of being established.

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