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Has the banking industry been held accountable for the housing crisis?
We can barely keep track of all the settlements banks have been accepting in the face of multiple lawsuits over the irresponsible loans they made during the housing boom and their practices during the foreclosure mess that followed. (We've tried: see here and here.)
Clifford Rossi worked for many of those lenders, including Citigroup and Countrywide. He was in "risk management"; in other words, the people that warn the executives, "Hey, you're getting in over your heads!"
Earlier this week, we talked to Rossi. He says he saw the crisis coming, and that in some instances, the executives he worked with listened. In 2005 at Countrywide, Rossi said, "as we started to see things like Las Vegas increasing in home prices 50 percent year over year, we turned off the taps [as far as] putting those loans into the bank's portfolio."
As we all saw, though, across the board in America, the incentive to listen was outweighed by the incentive to make heaping gobs of money.
On January 10, the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency adopted a rule that clearly lays out for lenders what they consider a good loan and what's a bad one.
But can one rule prevent a pattern of behavior that gave us that tidal wave of bad loans? Sheilah Kast asked Clifford Rossi, "Bottom line: is this new regulation any match for the crazy market that emerged over the last decade?"
"This is a way," Rossi said, "to enforce that prudent lending standards come back to rationality."
PBS's Frontline is looking at the accountability issue, asking if Wall Street is "Too Big to Jail." Here they list the top 10 civil cases being faced by the big lenders.