Jan 7 (Reuters) - Joseph Nacchio, the former Qwest Communications International chief executive, on Thursday won a $14.2 million jury verdict against a Goldman Sachs Group Inc unit and financial adviser over the sale of life insurance policies, his law firm said.
Jan 7 (Reuters) - Joseph Nacchio, the former Qwest Communications International chief executive, has won a $14.2 million jury verdict against a Goldman Sachs Group Inc unit and financial adviser over the sale of life insurance policies, his law firm said on Thursday.
Shares of CenturyLink, Inc. (CTL) declined 4.6% yesterday, plunging to a 52-week low of $24.81.
On Aug 13, we issued an updated research report on CenturyLink, Inc. (CTL).
Telecommunications company CenturyLink, Inc. (CTL) is planning to retrench 1,000 employees following its disappointing second-quarter results.
Осужденный за торговлю инсайдерской информацией Джозеф Наккьо пишет книгу о том, как американцы потеряли свободу, и рассуждает о взаимоотношениях с людьми
Осужденный за торговлю инсайдерской информацией Джозеф Наккьо пишет книгу о том, как американцы потеряли свободу, и рассуждает о взаимоотношениях с людьми
XRS (XRSC -0.3%) adds CTO to President and COO Brendan Reidy's list of positions. He will be responsible for "long-term product strategy" in addition to "development, product management, information systems, quality assurance, customer support, supply chain and human resources."Reidy joined XRS in March, having previously held executive positions at Clarus and Qwest Communications. Post your comment!
Founder of service reportedly used by Edward Snowden said he would not be complicit in 'crimes against the American people'The email service reportedly used by surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden abruptly shut down on Thursday after its owner cryptically announced his refusal to become "complicit in crimes against the American people."Lavabit, an email service that boasted of its security features and claimed 350,000 customers, is no more, apparently after rejecting a court order for cooperation with the US government to participate in surveillance on its customers. It is the first such company known to have shuttered rather than comply with government surveillance."I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit," founder Ladar Levison wrote on the company's website, reported by Xeni Jardin the popular news site Boing Boing.Levison said government-imposed restrictions prevented him from explaining what exactly led to his company's crisis point. "I feel you deserve to know what's going on – the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this," Levison wrote. "Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests."Privacy advocates called the move unprecedented. "I am unaware of any situation in which a service provider chose to shut down rather than comply with a court order they felt violated the Constitution," said Kurt Opsahl, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Silent Circle, another provider of secure online services, announced on Thursday night that it would scrap its own encrypted email offering, Silent Mail. In a blogpost the company said that although it had not received any government orders to hand over information, "the writing is on the wall".Several technology companies that participate in the National Security Agency's surveillance dragnets have filed legal requests to lift the secrecy restrictions that prevent them from explaining to their customers precisely what it is that they provide to the powerful intelligence service – either wittingly or due to a court order. Yahoo has sued for the disclosure of some of those court orders.The presiding judge of the secret court that issues such orders, known as the Fisa court, has indicated to the Justice Department that he expects declassification in the Yahoo case. The department agreed last week to a review that will last into September about the issues surrounding the release of that information.There are few internet and telecommunications companies known to have refused compliance with the NSA for its bulk surveillance efforts, which the NSA and the Obama administration assert are vital to protect Americans. One of them is Qwest Communications, whose former CEO Joseph Nacchio – convicted of insider trading – alleged that the government rejected it for lucrative contracts after Qwest became a rare holdout for post-9/11 surveillance. "Without the companies' participation," former NSA codebreaker William Binney recently told the Guardian, "it would reduce the collection capability of the NSA significantly."Snowden was allegedly a Lavabit customer. A Lavabit email address believed to come from Snowden invited reporters to a press conference at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport in mid-July.While Levinson did not say much about the shuttering of his company – he notably did not refer to the NSA, for instance – he did say he intended to mount a legal challenge. "We've already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals," Levinson wrote. "A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company."He continued: "This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States."Opsahl noted that the fact that Levinson was appealing a case before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals indicated the government had a court order for Lavabit's data. "It's taking a very bold stand, one that I'm sure will have financial ramifications," Opsahl said. "There should be more transparency around this. There's probably no harm to the national security of the United States to have it publicly revealed what are the legal issues here," Opsahl continued.The justice department said it had no comment to make. Representatives from the NSA, White House and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not immediately reply to a request for comment. EmailSurveillancePrivacyEdward SnowdenUnited StatesObama administrationSpencer Ackermantheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
AT&T, with the help of Verizon and the cable companies have 'captured' the FCC -- and have been able to get the federal agency to create and shape a working group designed specifically to remove all regulations and obligations, close down the Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTN) and create new digital dead zones. Think of this as -- Imagine taking a company to court and you find out that the judge, most of the jury, and even your lawyer has a direct financial tie to the company you are suing... Think you'll win? Moreover, AT&T's FCC play is part of a massive, well choreographed, multi-year state and federal campaign being orchestrated with ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, to remove all regulations and obligations and harm America's communications users -- i.e., you, dear reader... With the Wall Street Journal reporting a changing of the guard at the FCC, with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and the Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell leaving in the next few months, we need new people who are going to fix, expose and stand up to the corporations, not kowtow to them. Regulatory Capture & Financial Conflicts of Interest vs Open Government. In August 2012, New Networks filed a petition with the FCC outlining how the Technical Advisory Council, (TAC) created a group to 'sunset the PSTN' -- meaning shut down America's telecom networks of any regulations or obligations -- and that the majority of the TAC members had major, financial conflicts of interest with AT&T and/or Verizon (and Centurylink, formerly Qwest) - the caretakers of America's networks. In fact, AT&T and Verizon are on this Council. Worse, the TAC is using manipulated data supplied by AT&T and the other telcos to bias anyone to their point of view. This chart gives the TAC members and their financial ties to AT&T or Verizon. "Regulatory Capture" is the takeover of a federal agency by the corporations it is regulating and it is not new to the FCC. At a conference in 2010 called Reforming the FCC,, its website states that "Former Chair Reed Hundt, (1993-1997) for example, suggested that the acronym 'FCC' stands for 'Firmly Captured by Corporations' while former FCC Chief Economist Tom Hazlett counters that 'FCC' stands for 'Forever Captured by Corporations'." Regulatory capture is insidious as the agenda is set by the companies and then uses people and data to support the agenda -- regardless of how it will harm those it claims to be helping. And it is as much about things not discussed, not focused on, not investigated as it is about a proactive corporate position. For example, the TAC could have, as some have advocated, set up a group to create a transition path for moving to a 21st century utility that is open to all competitors, based on IP-enabled services and everyone is upgraded. Or the TAC could have given customers choices -- like being able to at least pick a competitive broadband and Internet provider which offers services over the wires coming into the customer's home or office; The Telecom Act of 1996 stated this as a goal. Yet, through capture over the last decade, these same networks are now closed to competition. Instead, this group decided to run with AT&T's-ALEC's plan to close, 'sunset', the PSTN. What is the PSTN or why you should care? Before we examine all of the players and their financial ties to the incumbents, AT&T and Verizon, let's go through the timeline of events. In 2009, AT&T files comments as part of the National Broadband Plan, claiming that there are two networks -- the aging copper networks that supply Plain Old Telephone Service (POTs) and the new shiny broadband network. This is, of course, pure manipulation as AT&T's broadband service U-Verse is a PSTN-based-copper-to-the-home service; thus the entire network is still based on the POTs-based network. And let me be clear-- as of December 2012, AT&T only had 4.7 million U-Verse Video customers out of 75 million 'locations' -- do the math. Thus, AT&T's discussion about the PSTN has been devised to get rid of regulations and obligations over areas that they don't want to do anything with, like upgrade or even provide service.Next, in 2009, AT&T gets the FCC to have the Technical Advisory Council (TAC) start a new group dedicated to 'sunsetting' the PSTN. Starting before 2010, AT&T, Centurylink (formerly Qwest), Verizon -- and the cable companies, as members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, create a plan to remove regulations -- based on "VOIP" and "Internet Freedom". It is evil genius; an effective verbal jujitsu Their claim is that "VOIP" is the next generation. Phone service based on the Voice-over-the-Internet (Protocol) is not a telecommunications service -- but an 'information service' and the difference in definitions means that VOIP is not regulated the same way. Their goal then is to make everything VOIP, removing all obligations and regulation. Thus "IP-based service" is "Internet freedom". Don't you want Internet freedom and innovation? Meanwhile, AT&T's U-Verse phone service, which is VOIP, uses the old copper wiring -- so the old networks can support these Internet services today. By 2012, as documented by a report by the NRRI, the cabal pulled off a coup and were able to get (as of 2013) 23 states so far to remove basic telecommunications regulations, though it varies by state. AT&T-ALEC et al use 'model' legislation they create and then hand it off to the state ALEC politician members to pass. According to numerous sources, ALEC-based bills will be presented in almost every state again and again until they change the laws. For an example of the ALEC-state based machinations, we detailed the ALEC-AT&T attack in Wisconsin where AT&T, ALEC and the ALEC member politicians attempted to pass legislation in 2007 By 2012, a different ALEC-based piece of 'model legislation' has been able to pass in 19 states, this one designed to close down the rights of municipalities to offer broadband services, even though the phone and cable companies have neglected or refused to do upgraded. According to Business Week, this ALEC-based bill started almost a decade ago and ALEC's influence is in many other industries as well. In August 2012, AT&T laid out the ALEC-state-based principles for the Federal plan in a letter to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who has been banging the drum to close down the networks. Pai is a former associate general counsel for Verizon, then went to work for a law firm that handles the telcos' business. In August 2012, New Networks filed a petition outlining how the majority of the Technical Advisory Council members have financial conflicts of interest and the FCC is using manipulated data supplied by the companies. It was ignored. In November 2012, AT&T files a petition to start the transition to close down the networks and ties it to an extortion plan -- if the FCC passes the petition AT&T will spend $14 billion. As we demonstrated, AT&T always uses the promise of broadband deployment to get deregulation then never comes through. In this case, AT&T's numbers are even suspect; probably less than $6 billion will be spent, at best, spread over 3 years. In December 2012, the Technical Advisory Council presents their recommendations, which were, of course, to let AT&T et al do what they want. In December 2012, the FCC forms a 'Technology Transition Task Force" to close the deal, which is an extension of the work of the TAC. In 2012, Commissioner Pai starts banging the drum at conservative, corporate-friendly think tanks, such as the speech given at the Communications Liberty and Innovation Project (CLIP) of Competitive Enterprise Institute, to start the transition. In December 2012, Republican Congressmen Greg Walden, whose top 10 campaign contributors include Comcast, AT&T and Verizon and is the Chairman of the House Sub-committee on Telecommunications & Technology, congratulates Pai on the Task Force. Expect hearings and a move toward this ALEC-based legislation in 2013, which will be called for by multiple voices -- almost all of whom will be heavily backed by the phone and cable companies. The most disconcerting part, however, is the length and breadth of this massive plan as companies, from AT&T and Verizon's wireless divisions, as well as the three incumbents -- AT&T, Verizon and Centurylink -- and many of the large cable companies including Comcast -- all ALEC members -- as well as thousands of state and federal politicians -- democrats and republicans -- are all working with the same messaging, the same massive budgets. And, as we pointed out, this also includes corporate funded think tanks, non-profits, including minorities, lobbying groups, astroturf groups and a skunkworks coordination team. The Capture by AT&T et al of the FCC The Technical Advisory Council is the epitome of a stacked jury where the verdict is already in -- against you -- before the trial even starts. To start, AT&T and Verizon are on the Council -- the two incumbents who control the majority of the U.S. telecommunications networks -- wireline and wireless. In this way they don't have to go far to keep their eyes on the progress. 'Friends' of AT&T and Verizon There is a core group of companies (see the chart which provides not only links to the companies' ties to AT&T or Verizon but also gives the revenues for 2011.) The list of TAC members includes: Hardware and software vendors including Apple, Motorola, Intel, Cisco and Microsoft all of whom have multiple financial deals with AT&T and Verizon including wireless phones, tablets and technology. The cable companies, Comcast, Time Warner and Brighthouse not only sold spectrum to Verizon, but Verizon has a marketing deal with some of them to sell their cable products with Verizon's wireless services. Other hardware and consulting companies, from Accenture, Qualcomm, Alcatel-Lucent or Harris all have deals with either Verizon or AT&T or both. In fact, the core 16 companies represent about $800 billion dollars in revenues in 2011. There are a number of other members with conflicts of interest: New Venture Partners is an investment firm which is part of the Verizon 4G investment forum. Silicon Flatirons is a "Center for law, technology, and entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado"; funders include AT&T, CenturyLink, and Verizon.. There's also the Von Coalition, which has been lobbying for years to put through ALEC--state-based VOIP legislation. The VON Coalition originally started to when VOIP service was designed to bypass the phone companies, but it and the Coalition has been co-opted and is now funded by AT&T, Google and Microsoft among others. In fact, the Von Coalition has been in California, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Wyoming among other states to do on the state level what the TAC is doing on the Federal level. Oh, but it gets worse. The head of the Council, Tom Wheeler, worked for the wireless and cable companies as former head of the cable association and the former head of the wireless association. "On the 20th anniversary of the cable television industry (1995), Tom was selected as one of the 20 most influential individuals in the industry's history and on the 25th anniversary of the cellular telecommunications industry (2008); he was named one of the top 10 innovators in the wireless industry. Tom was President of the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) from 1979 to 1984. After several years as CEO ... he was asked to lead the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA), where he was CEO until 2004." More recently, Wheeler works for Core Capital with his focus being wireless. He appears to not care about the telco wires, as told by his own writing. "The PSTN is a casualty of the digital world." His writings are called "Mobile Musings." And he is part of the Open Mobile Video Coalition which is working on "TV Everywhere", which was announced by Comcast and Time Warner. Wheeler is also currently being cited by some as a potential chairman of the FCC when the current chair leaves. The Other Side? The Mathematics of Regulatory Capture Made Simple. There is no serious 'other side'. We could identify only 5-7 companies and groups out of about 50, that are pro-wire' and pro PSTN. This includes wireline competitors XO, EarthLink and Level 3, but when added together their revenues are about 1 percent of the core group. This is important as they don't have the financial resources or skunkworks networks that the AT&T-ALEC cabal has. Missing -- Your voice or representation: Ironically, this is a 'technology' council yet the closing down of the networks and the creating of new digital dead zones is a political issue and a customer issue. Those who might actually discuss these points -- such as advocates for consumers and customers were not invited to be part of this to give the council 'balance'. Conclusion: Stop All Proceedings to Close Down the PSTN; Investigate Regulatory Capture and Clean House. In short, it appears that the Council was set up by AT&T and the telephone and cable companies to close down regulations and obligations and they created a group that was pro wireless and pro VOIP -- or more to the point anti-regulation and anti-PSTN. The FCC will say that they are 'transparent', data driven and all of those other terms that are political speak but meaningless. The FCC never explored other options like opening the networks or why the utility networks were never properly upgraded or anything that would show that they considered other alternatives to creating new digital dead zones. Where is the FCC working group for 'structural separation' -- i.e.; separating the companies' controls over the utility wires or opening the phone or cable companies' networks to competition? Or separating the wireline and wireless divisions so that they actually compete? Personal Coda. In 2003, we were a member of the FCC Consumer Advisory Committee. We filed a complaint against the FCC and the Committee in 2005 as we found that the majority of members were either part of the industry -- Verizon has been and continues to be on the Committee since its inception -- or that the majority of consumer and astroturf groups were also funded by the industry. This is the reason why your phone bills are unreadable, prices continue to rise and many have few, if any, choices for fast broadband in America. Maybe the new chairman and commissioner should be required to actually care about the public, economic growth and innovation -- and clean house -- instead of having sections of the FCC captured by the very industry they are supposed to be monitoring and regulating.
Some Internet providers, notably AT&T, are still not delivering the speeds they advertise to consumers, according to a new report by the Federal Communications Commission. Internet providers often try to outdo each other by boasting that they deliver faster Web service than their competitors. Periodically, the FCC checks to see if the companies they regulate are telling the truth. The FCC report issued Friday -- the third of its kind -- measured the actual Internet speeds delivered by the nation's major Internet providers during a one-month period last September. It found that, on average, companies were delivering 96 percent of the speeds they promised to consumers. Customers who subscribe to Comcast and Verizon's FiOs service were even getting speeds faster than advertised -- even when demand was at its peak, which normally slows down service. But the report also found that subscribers of AT&T, CenturyLink, Qwest and Verizon's DSL service were still not receiving the connections they were promised, according to the report. Here's a table detailing the commission's findings: The FCC's "name and shame" reports, as they are sometimes called by industry experts, have led to improvements in years past. The first report, issued in 2011, found that Cablevision delivered about half the speed that it advertised during peak usage hours. The report released Friday found that Cablevision's speeds were now faster than advertised. Internet speeds have become increasingly important to consumers as more of them are streaming videos online with Netflix and Hulu. The report found that a growing number of consumers are migrating to higher speed Internet service, willing to pay more to avoid the annoyance of waiting for videos to buffer and for large files to download. While the FCC found several Internet providers were delivering the speeds they promised, those connections are still much slower than Google's ultra-high speed service. The company says Google Fiber offers broadband connections up to 100 times faster than what many Americans receive today. It is currently available only to residents of Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan. The F.C.C. report also measured, for the first time, the speeds of satellite Internet service, which many rural Americans depend on because major Internet companies do not provide service where they live. The report said the broadband satellite industry has recently launched a new generation of satellites that have "greatly improved overall performance" and found that consumers of ViaSat’s ViaSat-1 service were receiving speeds faster than advertised. But the report did not mention that satellite Internet service comes with data caps that limit how many online videos customers can watch. Last year, residents of rural Mississippi told The Huffington Post about their satellite Internet service, complaining that it went down for several hours due to inclement weather or slowed to a crawl when they reached their data caps.
A last-ditch effort by federal and state law enforcement authorities to hold Wall Street accountable for nearly bringing down the U.S. economy is unlikely to lead to any criminal charges against big bank executives, according to a source close to the investigation. Barring a "hail mary pass," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is still ongoing, the members of a task force President Barack Obama formed in January to investigate fraud in the residential mortgage bond industry will instead most likely bring civil lawsuits against some of the banks involved, though it isn't clear when these cases might come. That means any penalties for those accused of fraud or other misconduct would be measured in dollars, not jail terms. A spokesman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a co-head of the task force and the driving force behind its formation, declined to comment. Adora Andy, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, said in a statement that "all appropriate remedies, civil and criminal, are on the table." "As always, if working group members uncover evidence of fraud or other illegal conduct, we will pursue such conduct aggressively," Andy said. The subprime mortgage bubble popped more than five years ago, triggering a full-fledged economic meltdown. Since then, the question confronting regulators and government prosecutors has been whether the banks that drove the market's expansion simply made terrible business decisions, or committed fraud in order to reap short-term profits. The Securities and Exchange Commission, in a number of civil lawsuits, has alleged the latter (as a regulatory agency, the SEC cannot bring criminal suits). But with the exception of one failed case against Bear Stearns in 2009, the Department of Justice, which historically would lead any criminal effort, has declined to criminally prosecute those who created the financial instruments built out of toxic mortgage loans. By pooling investigative resources, it was hoped that the Justice Department, the SEC and a handful of state attorneys general, led by Schneiderman, could accomplish what the agencies had mostly failed to deliver on their own: a sense of justice, however fuzzily defined. But from the start, the task force -- officially, the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group -- has been dogged by critics questioning the seriousness of the effort, and by concerns that the legal timeframe in which investigators must bring cases is coming to a close. Civil cases, if and when they are filed, could lead to large financial penalties and possibly aid for struggling homeowners. Yet it seems unlikely that such a result will satisfy those whose anger sparked the Occupy Wall Street movement, or even many middle-class Americans who may wonder how, in contrast to other financial crises, this one could end with none of the people who seemingly helped orchestrate it behind bars. "Without accountability, the unending parade of megabank scandals will inevitably continue," Neil Barofsky, the former watchdog over the $700 billion bank bailout fund and a frequent critic of the Obama administration's response to the financial crisis, recently told The Huffington Post. How and why the government chose this path will be the subject of debate for years to come. Some say prosecutors lacked resources. Others assert that the complexity of the financial transactions makes it virtually impossible to prove criminal intent in court, where prosecutors must convince a jury of guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." In a civil action, by contrast, the bar is lower: jurors need only conclude that "a preponderance of evidence" indicates guilt. One former prosecutor said a simpler human dimension may also be preventing government lawyers from filing criminal charges: the basic fear of losing a big case. "Losing has a chilling effect, because no one wants to take a spin like that and come out on the short end," said Cliff Stricklin, a former prosecutor who worked on the Enron task force and also successfully prosecuted Qwest Communications chief executive Joseph Nacchio for accounting fraud. (Nacchio is currently serving a seven-year sentence in a federal prison.) "[Losing a case] makes you wonder if there was indeed a crime, and if so, how you go about proving it," Stricklin said. "It is a signal to the public that either the government is jumping to conclusions or isn't competent." CATASTROPHE OR CRIME? Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, adheres mostly to the view that the financial crisis was a catastrophe, but not a crime. Now a prominent defense attorney at the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, White said she thinks calls from some quarters for more criminal prosecutions are unwarranted. "The financial crisis was so expensive and so many people were injured that one's instinct is to think that there must have been massive wrongdoing from the top on down," she said. But criminal cases must be built on compelling evidence, not suppositions, and evidence of broad-based misconduct that would rise to that level doesn't exist, White said. "I don't think the criticism is fair," White said. William Black, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a prominent former bank regulator, is in the camp that thinks prosecutors have missed a massive opportunity. "They don't get the whole concept of looting," he said. Black, who worked with prosecutors to develop some of the 1,100 criminal cases that emerged from the Savings & Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s, said that Wall Street accounting fraud flows from a simple recipe: grow by buying high-interest loans, leverage the business by borrowing lots of money and keep next to nothing in reserve against losses. "You are mathematically guaranteed to report record profits," he said. But those profits are based on a fiction, he said, one that costs investors when the bank collapses -- and in some cases, can cost taxpayers too. Financial firms like Goldman Sachs profited tremendously by purchasing loans described widely in the industry as "liar's loans," Black said. These loans were made without the borrower having to prove income, or even that he or she had a job. "It makes no sense that an honest lender would ever make liar's loans," he said. Nor does it make sense that a sophisticated bank like Goldman, which runs an entire business based on the ability to calculate risk, would purchase such dangerous loans without knowing that they were toxic, he said. Indeed, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission produced evidence last year which suggests that Goldman Sachs traders knew these investments were more dangerous than they were letting on to their customers. Internally, they characterized offerings as "junk" and "monstrosities" even as they offloaded the mortgage bonds onto investors, according to the report. The SEC came to the same conclusion when investigating whether the bank had misled investors about a product known as Abacus. That probe led to a $550 million settlement in 2010. The SEC has won $2.2 billion in penalties stemming from financial crisis-related cases, though it has been dogged by complaints -- most notably from federal judge Jed Rakoff -- that its fines are too small and that it doesn't target individuals often enough. An SEC spokesman declined comment. Still, the agency's efforts to pursue financial crisis fraud far outstrip those of the Justice Department. The government's lone criminal case related to the creation of complex mortgage investments came in 2009, when a federal jury declined to convict two former Bear Stearns hedge fund managers accused of lying to investors about the soundness of the securities they were selling. Last month, the Justice Department announced that it had dropped a probe of Goldman Sachs, launched after the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that the bank sold investments "in ways that created conflicts of interest with the firm’s clients and at times led to the bank's profiting from the same products that caused substantial losses for its clients.” There was "not a viable basis" to bring criminal charges against the bank or its employees, the Justice Department said in a statement explaining its decision. LAST CHANCE FOR PROSECUTORS Obama's multi-agency mortgage task force was supposed to succeed where previous investigations had failed. "This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans," Obama said in his State of the Union address in January. The goal of the new unit was to drill down into the sophisticated financial instruments the banks created to package and sell mortgages in a search for fraud. But the group was met with skepticism from many legal experts, who wondered how this effort would be any different from previous investigations. The group got off to a rocky start. Three months after its formation, it had failed even to secure office space. In May, Schneiderman told the Wall Street Journal that he wanted more resources and wished that investigators at his partner agencies would pick up the pace. According to the Justice Department, the investigation is now in full swing. More than 200 investigators are on the job, "devoting significant resources to investigate and prosecute misconduct by financial institutions in the origination and securitization of mortgages," the agency said in a statement. The DOJ has issued 30 civil subpoenas in the past four months, it said, and the SEC has issued more than 300 -- though that number includes pre-existing investigations. The New York attorney general's office, HuffPost previously reported, is now investigating several major institutions. But if none of these cases yield a criminal indictment, who, if anyone, is to blame? Schneiderman, though he never promised criminal cases, is likely to attract some criticism for the lack of prosecutions due to his aggressive advocacy for the task force. Last year, Schneiderman led an insurgency against a robo-signing settlement shaping up between state attorneys general and five large banks. His goal, he said, was to preserve his ability to continue an investigation he had opened in the spring into possible fraud that led to the housing bubble and crash. The states leading the negotiations dispute that Schneiderman's ability to continue his investigation was ever in doubt. Nevertheless, his initial opposition to what became a $25 billion deal led directly to the creation of the task force Schneiderman co-leads the task force, along with Robert Khuzami, the enforcement director of the SEC; Lanny Breuer, the head of the criminal division at the Justice Department; Stuart Delery, the head of Justice's civil division; and John Walsh, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado. Though each of these entities are sharing documents and resources, it is up to the individual agencies to file charges. The biggest challenge for Schneiderman, who took office in January 2011, was the ticking clock. Most mortgage bonds were packaged and sold in 2006 or earlier, and the statute of of limitations on most types of fraud cases is five years from the commission of the alleged wrongdoing. It is possible to extract "tolling" agreements from a business or individual under investigation that effectively extends the allotted time in which to bring a case, in exchange for more lenient treatment. But Schneiderman would have had to enact tolling agreements in very short order after taking office. It isn't clear whether a bank or an individual would accept such an agreement in a criminal case if they knew the statute of limitations was about to run out. It is also true that while the New York attorney general's office has the authority to bring criminal fraud cases, it historically almost never does. Like the SEC, the office instead typically files lawsuits with the expectation of wringing a settlement -- and political bragging points -- out of a Wall Street firm. It's part of the recipe that both Andrew Cuomo and Eliot Spitzer used to pave their way to a governorship. Instead, the attorney general's office typically defers to the Department of Justice, which has a large team of experts parked in the U.S. attorney's office just a few blocks away in lower Manhattan. But instead of taking on Wall Street's top executives, that office has focused on alternate cases -- such as the recent prosecution of hedge fund king Raj Rajaratnam, who was convicted of insider trading. Stricklin, now in private practice at the Bryan Cave law firm in Denver, said that he doesn't know whether there was criminal conduct in the run-up to the financial crisis. "The truth is more complicated than can be explained in sound bites," he said. But he has seen, he said, a decline in the talent level of those working white-collar cases at agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department, which over the past decade have diverted some of the most talented people over to counterterrorism. "The government needs to decide if it is really going to tackle white-collar crime or not, and if so it needs to allocate resources," he said. Otherwise, the result will be fewer cases, and more losses, Stricklin said. "It always matters to bring solid criminal cases where you are holding people accountable," he said. "But the worst signal is not to do nothing, but to do something partway."