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Congressman Defends Firms’ ‘Good Samaritan’ Purchases

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) is stepping up and speaking out in defense of ""JPMorgan Chase"":http://www.jpmorganchase.com, calling the U.S. government's lawsuit against the financial institution a case of ""no good deed goes unpunished.""


New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman ""filed a suit against JPMorgan"":http://www.dsnews.com/articles/rmbs-working-group-sues-jpmorgan-for-securities-fraud-2012-10-02 on October 1 for the alleged misconduct of Bear Stearns & Co. prior to JPMorgan's acquisition of the failing investment bank. The case was filed with the court on behalf of President Obama's federal-state task force investigating Wall Street firms' roles in the financial crisis.

Frank says he has first-hand knowledge of the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department coercing JPMorgan into taking over Bear Stearns' operations leading up to that fateful day in March 2008 when JPMorgan stepped up with cash-in-hand and shielded the markets from an economic shock that would have purportedly broken the U.S. financial system.

""The federal officials involved believed that the failure of Bear Stearns would have terribly negative consequences for the economy, and they urged JPMorgan Chase to do a good deed by taking over an institution which, I believe, the bank would never have sought to acquire absent that urging,"" Frank said in a publicly released statement.

Frank contends that officials should be going after the individuals responsible for the misrepresentations, fraud, and deceptive practices that drained millions of dollars from investors' coffers and sent the nation's housing market into its tailspin; not the institutions where these individuals worked, and certainly not the ""Good Samaritan"" firms that the federal government persuaded to put up their own green to bring a mega-corporation floundering in the subprime securities mess on board.


""I believe a similar rationale applies to Bank of America, which undertook a takeover of Merrill Lynch in part because federal official[s] urged it to do so,"" Frank went on to say.

""This does not mean that there should always be immunity,"" he continued, adding, ""I am aware of no federal urging that led CEO Ken Lewis of Bank of America to take over Countrywide.""

""Bank of America"":http://www.bankofamerica.com has faced lawsuit after lawsuit related to the business dealings of Countrywide prior to its 2008 acquisition of the subprime lender-from homeowners, investors, even entire states looking to recompense homeowners for what's been deemed by numerous judges as Countrywide's predatory practices. Frank says ""it is entirely appropriate for the bank to be pursued on that account.""

It's the corporate takeovers where the government got involved where Frank finds fault. ""[I]n those cases where larger financial institutions absorbed smaller ones at the request of Bush administration officials who understandably sought to minimize damage to the broader economy, it is inappropriate to punish those institutions for prior activities of the entities they absorbed,"" Frank argued.

Regulators goaded the nation's financial powerhouses to take on the most monumental failures of the last decade with forewarnings that otherwise, Wall Street would implode and the U.S. financial system with it. Now, years later, there's nothing of semblance left of these pre-acquisition entities except the losses they caused investors. Yet, officials tasked with investigating the economic upheaval that triggered the Great Recession are placing blame for potentially criminal acts of the now-defunct firms squarely on the shoulders of the companies that rescued them.

Frank's public statement ends with him calling on Schneiderman and federal and state officials to ""reconsider"" decisions to prosecute firms for misdeeds committed by subsidiaries prior to their control when it was the federal government that solicited the acquiring firms' involvement in the first place.

""[M]y request for reconsideration of these decisions applies only to those extraordinary cases in which top regulators pressed financial institutions to absorb smaller, troubled entities,"" Frank stressed. ""I am not calling for any change in procedures by the FDIC or other front line regulators used in the normal course of liquidating failed institutions under its jurisdiction.""

About Author: Carrie Bay

Carrie Bay is a freelance writer for DS News and its sister publication MReport. She served as online editor for DSNews.com from 2008 through 2011. Prior to joining DS News and the Five Star organization, she managed public relations, marketing, and media relations initiatives for several B2B companies in the financial services, technology, and telecommunications industries. She also wrote for retail and nonprofit organizations upon graduating from Texas A&M University with degrees in journalism and English.

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