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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, were partners for years at a Washington law firm that represented a Who’s Who of big banks and other companies at the center of alleged foreclosure fraud, a Reuters inquiry shows.
Both the Justice Department and Covington declined to say if either official had personally worked on matters for the big mortgage industry clients. Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said Holder and Breuer had complied fully with conflict of interest regulations, but she declined to say if they had recused themselves from any matters related to the former clients.
Holder and Breuer aren’t alone. Reuters lists a couple more former Covingtom & Burling associates at the DoJ that have since returned to their law practice, including Holder’s deputy chief of staff John Garland and Breuer’s deputy chief of staff Steven Fagell. The law firm itself lists almost two dozen former attorneys now working in the DoJ and another dozen in US Attorney offices around the country. That’s quite an impressive footprint of influence for Covington & Burling, and a valuable one for its clientele.
It’s not as if the fraud was particularly esoteric, either. Reuters began its own reporting on massive numbers of forged endorsements, part of the robo-signing scandal that halted foreclosure processing for more than a year. Those forgeries got submitted to courts on many occasions as part of the foreclosure process. Despite this, Holder has done nothing — at least publicly — to press an investigation into these forgeries, and as Reuters reports today, more are on their way:
Recent calls for a wide-ranging criminal investigation of the mortgage servicing industry have come from members of Congress, including Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., state officials, and county clerks. In recent months clerks from around the country have examined mortgage and foreclosure records filed with them and reported finding high percentages of apparently fraudulent documents.
On Wednesday, John O’Brien Jr., register of deeds in Salem, Mass., announced that he had sent 31,897 allegedly fraudulent foreclosure-related documents to Holder. O’Brien said he asked for a criminal investigation of servicers and their law firms that had filed the documents because they “show a pattern of fraud,” forgery and false notarizations.