LOS ANGELES – Five assistant United States attorneys have received Attorney General Awards for their extraordinary work on cases involving historic settlements with a credit ratings agency and one of the nation’s largest banks.
The five prosecutors were honored yesterday at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. attended by the honorees, their families and United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker.
Assistant U. S. Attorney George S. Cardona and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Anoiel Khorshid were among 11 attorneys and investigators who received the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service for their work on the investigation into Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, which earlier this year paid a $1.375 billion settlement, the largest penalty of its type ever paid by a credit rating agency.
AUSAs Cardona and Khorshid played key roles in the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA) investigation and litigation against S&P for its issuance of fraudulently inflated ratings of Residential Mortgage Backed Securities (RMBS) and Collateralized Debt Obligations in the run-up to the 2007 through 2008 financial crisis (see: http://go.usa.gov/3SJCJ).
As part of the federal investigation and litigation with S&P, which was coordinated with related civil actions by 19 states and the District of Columbia, S&P admitted it ignored senior analysts within the company who complained it had given top ratings to financial products that were failing to perform as expected and it had declined to downgrade underperforming assets because it was worried that doing so would hurt the company’s business. While this strategy helped S&P avoid disappointing its clients, it did major harm to investors, including federally insured financial institutions that suffered losses exceeding $20 billion and to the larger economy, contributing to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Evan J. Davis, Leon W. Weidman and Brent A. Whittlesey received the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service for being part of the team that obtained an historic $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America for fraud in the origination and securitization of residential mortgages.
AUSAs Davis, Weidman and Whittlesey were among 13 attorneys and auditors recognized for their important roles on one team that investigated the entire platform of RMBS offered for sale in 2006 through 2008 by Merrill Lynch, Bank of America and Countrywide. The teams pursued extensive and detailed fact investigations, developed and adapted innovative legal theories under FIRREA and prepared comprehensive civil complaints seeking billions of dollars in penalties.
The exhaustive efforts and perseverance of these teams advanced the core mission of the department by holding Bank of America accountable for its fraudulent conduct that contributed to the financial crisis, as well as providing substantial compensation for entities supported by American taxpayers and critical assistance to homeowners and neighborhoods impacted by the mortgage meltdown (see: http://go.usa.gov/3SJyj).
“These outstanding prosecutors represent the very best qualities of our office –ethics, integrity and professionalism – and they displayed incredible dedication in tackling two of the most complicated and largest cases ever handled by the Department of Justice,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “I am extremely proud of the work done by these attorneys, who are a testament to fine work done by everyone in the Department.”
Attorney General Loretta Lynch recognized 279 Justice Department employees and 33 individuals with Attorney General Awards at a ceremony in Washington. These annual awards recognize department employees and other individuals for their dedication to carrying out the Department of Justice’s mission.
“The individuals being honored today stand out within a department that holds all of its employees and partners to an extremely high standard of excellence,” said Attorney General Lynch. “They have put in long hours, made immense sacrifices, and, in some cases, placed themselves in harm’s way. They have taken on issues that once seemed intractable, and made progress on problems that once seemed impossible. And their outstanding work is an inspiration to public servants everywhere.”