A federal jury convicted Lee Farkas, the former Chairman of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp., Tuesday for his role in a $2.9 billion fraud that led to the fall of his company and that of former Top 50 bank Colonial Bank. Farkas was found guilty on all 14 counts of conspiracy and bank, wire and securities fraud. He now faces life in prison.
More than two years after the financial crisis, Farkas is arguably the only major player in the mortgage industry to face criminal charges. William Black, professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, calls the lack of prosecutions a disgrace, and he blames policymakers.
It's a matter of "unofficial" policy, he claims. "The de facto policy right now is elite frauds go free if they're in banking because the whole sector is too fragile. That is significantly insane. It will produce the next crisis." Essentially he's saying officials think it's more important for the banking sector to make money than it is for them to follow the law.
In the accompanying interview with Aaron Task, he notes that Treasury or White House officials are fully aware of the fraud, citing FBI testimony as far back as 2004 about rampant fraud in the mortgage market. In fact, Black says the problems banks are now facing with foreclosure paperwork are simply a result of the foreclosure frauds that were never addressed. "Every time you fail to root out the frauds, the fraud simply migrates. It migrates from the lending process to the foreclosure and servicing process."