Iowa Supreme Court Rules Civil Forfeiture Laws Violate Fifth Amendment, Upholds Pleading The Fifth


May 30, 2018 @ 02:02 PM 23,367
2 Free Issues of Forbes
Iowa Supreme Court Rules Civil Forfeiture Laws Violate Fifth Amendment, Upholds Pleading The Fifth
https://www.forbes.com/sites/instituteforjustice/2018/05/30/iowa-supreme-court-rules-civil-forfeiture-laws-violate-fifth-amendment-upholds-pleading-the-fifth/#3d1978161655

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Nick Sibilla Nick Sibilla , Contributor

The Iowa Supreme Court struck a blow on Friday against the state’s civil forfeiture laws, which allow the government to permanently confiscate property without ever filing criminal charges. In a unanimous, 33-page ruling, the court strengthened the constitutional protection against self-incrimination for owners fighting civil forfeiture, revived a motion to suppress evidence, and rejected a tactic commonly used by prosecutors to prevent owners from being awarded thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees.

Iowa has been a surprising hot spot for civil forfeiture, ensnaring motorists, professional poker players, and an entrepreneur who ran a Mexican restaurant for almost four decades. The state even rewards the aggressive pursuit of forfeiture cases: Police and prosecutors can keep up to 100 percent of the proceeds from forfeited property. Little wonder then that forfeiture has become quite profitable for law enforcement. An investigation by the Des Moines Register revealed that Iowa law enforcement agencies had taken over $55 million in cash and more than 4,200 vehicles since 1985.

Spurred by these abuses, last year, Iowa legislators strengthened due process protections for innocent owners, and required a criminal conviction to forfeit property valued at under $5,000. Although Iowa’s conviction threshold is the lowest of the 15 states with a conviction requirement, in 2015, data analysis by the Institute for Justice found that only 14 percent of Iowa’s cash forfeitures topped $5,000. Friday’s ruling should further curtail civil forfeiture.

The case began when Jean Carlos Herrera was driving from New York City to Los Angeles in September 2015. While Herrera was passing through Pottawattamie County, Iowa on Interstate 80, he was pulled over by Sergeant Kevin Killpack for going four miles over the speed limit. During the stop, a drug dog alerted to the car. Without Herrera’s consent, Killpack searched the Expedition, but only found some tools, a cell phone, a hollowed-out ice cream machine, and a Pelican case that “contained drug paraphernalia and remnants of marijuana.” No other drugs were found.

Killpack cited Herrera for speeding but never charged him with a crime. Yet that didn’t stop the sergeant from seizing the car, a 1999 Ford Expedition registered to Herrera’s friend, Fernando Rodriguez, and all the equipment inside.

Less than a week after the Expedition was seized, Rodriguez hired an attorney, who promptly emailed Pottawattamie County that Rodriguez was fighting back as an “innocent owner.” Rodriguez’s attorney also noted that under Iowa law, the government must pay attorney’s fees to property owners who win their civil forfeiture cases. He also noted that “the fees are going to be greater than the vehicle value, so this might be one to let go.”

Soon after, Sergeant Killpack applied for a warrant to search possible hidden compartments within the vehicle, based on the fact that Rodriguez had hired an attorney. According to Killpack, “it does not make financial sense to spend a significant amount of money, in attorney fees, in an attempt to reclaim a vehicle worth $2,132,” which in his mind meant that “there is something much more valuable still inside the vehicle that has not been found by law enforcement in the initial search.”

A district court granted the warrant, though, as the Iowa Supreme Court noted on Friday, Killpack’s warrant application “failed to mention that Rodriguez had argued he was entitled to attorney fees from the State as an innocent owner.” On his second search, Killpack found and seized almost $45,000 in cash hidden inside a false compartment.

In October, prosecutors filed a complaint to forfeit the cash, the car, and the rest of the property taken during the traffic stop, claiming that the property was “drug proceeds” or “used in the transport of drugs.”

The two men (who were now represented by the same lawyer) filed an answer together that stated they had an interest in the seized properties and demanded their return. Herrera also invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to completely comply with the state’s disclosure requirements.

Under state law, property owners who want to reclaim their seized property must fully disclose “the nature and extent” of their interest in the property, as well as “the date, the identity of the transferor, the circumstances of the claimant’s acquisition.” Refusing to comply can result in the property forfeited to the state. Yet those forced disclosures may reveal information that could incriminate the owner or trigger a perjury trap, which would violate the Fifth Amendment.

Writing for the majority, Justice Thomas Waterman noted that Iowa’s forfeiture laws burden owners with a “difficult choice between asserting [their] privilege against self-incrimination or foregoing [their] claim for return of the contested property.”

As Waterman recounted, Herrera omitting that information was “fatal to his claim:” The district court ruled that Herrera’s reply was not a proper answer and so he was not entitled to a forfeiture hearing.

But on appeal, the Iowa Supreme Court overturned that ruling, and held that “assertion of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination excuses compliance” from Iowa’s disclosure requirements for civil forfeiture claims. “The court may not enforce the specific disclosure requirements…over the claimant’s Fifth Amendment objection,” Waterman ruled.

Friday’s ruling also revived Herrera’s motion to suppress evidence, which the district court had dismissed as well. Both the Iowa Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court have ruled that the “exclusionary rule,” which prohibits the government from using evidence that was not lawfully obtained, applies to criminal prosecutions and civil forfeiture proceedings.

In this case, Herrera claimed that the stop, search, and seizure of the car violated the Fourth Amendment and should be suppressed accordingly. Justice Waterman ruled that “the district court must first rule on motions to suppress evidence before resolving forfeiture claims,” since that ruling “determines what evidence the state can rely on during the forfeiture proceeding.”

The court’s ruling should strengthen safeguards for property owners facing civil forfeiture. According to Dean Stowers, who represented Herrera and Rodriguez, “this decision will require the state to establish the legality of the seizure” before the state can attempt “to forfeit property or to compel persons to answer questions about their property.”

A representative from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office said they were “still looking at the possible impact of the ruling” and declined to comment further.

“It appears that we followed the forfeiture rules as they existed at the time, and we argued that the claimants did not follow the rules,” said Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber. ”The District Court and Court of Appeals agreed with our position. The Iowa Supreme Court has now ordered that they are changing the rules, so we’ll all follow the new rules.”

As for Rodriguez, five months after the state filed its forfeiture complaint, prosecutors decided Rodriguez could get back his Ford Expedition. His attorney then filed to recover nearly $9,000 in attorney’s fees and expenses, which, under Iowa law, are owed to prevailing parties. But because the state dropped its forfeiture case just before a court hearing, the district court ruled that Rodriguez didn’t actually prevail because he didn’t technically win on the merits in court.

Justice Waterman rejected this argument wholesale:

“Rodriguez sought to prevent the State from taking permanent possession of his vehicle. He fulfilled his primary objective of getting his vehicle back after months of contested litigation against the State. On this record, we hold that Rodriguez is a prevailing party even though the district court did not expressly find that he was an ‘innocent owner.’”

Moreover, Waterman noted that fee awards “help level the playing field for persons contesting government seizures,” as they “incentivize attorneys to represent citizens seeking return of their property from the government.”

The Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling contrasts starkly with the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Iowa. In 2016, the Eighth Circuit considered the case of Carole Hinders, who ran Mrs. Lady’s, a cash-only Mexican restaurant in Arnolds Park, Iowa. Based simply on the way she deposited her cash, in spring 2013, the IRS raided Carole’s entire business checking account—almost $33,000. The IRS accused Carole of “structuring” her deposits, or deliberately keeping her deposits under $10,000 to circumvent a reporting requirement. She was never indicted.

Institute for Justice

Carole Hinders.

With help from the Institute for Justice, Carole fought back. In October 2014, The New York Times ran a front-page story on her case. That prompted the IRS to announce it would “no longer pursue the seizure and forfeiture of funds associated solely with ‘legal source’ structuring cases.” Less than two months after the Times article was published, federal prosecutors dropped the case against Carole’s cash.

Under the federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, property owners who “substantially prevail” in their civil forfeiture cases are entitled to interest as well as attorney’s fees and costs. Considering that she recovered her cash and even sparked a policy shift at the IRS, Carole believed she had “substantially prevailed.” Unfortunately, in 2016, the Eighth Circuit ruled that she did not, and instead held that “a voluntary change on the part of a defendant, even if it resulted in the outcome sought by the plaintiff, ‘lack[ed] the necessary judicial imprimatur’ to authorize a fee award.” With this ruling, the Eighth Circuit upheld a loophole for the government to skip out on paying hefty attorney’s fees to innocent property owners.

But with the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision, owners fighting forfeiture in state court now have an easier time to be made whole than if their exact same case were in federal court. One Des Moines-based forfeiture attorney told the Des Moines Register that the new decision should deter the government from seizing property, since prosecutors “risk not only the return of the property but a significant attorney fee as well.”

“The Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling is another potent reminder that the best way to prevent abusive seizures is to end civil forfeiture once and for all,” said Institute for Justice Senior Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath. “Iowa legislators should follow the lead of counterparts in North Carolina, New Mexico and Nebraska and replace it with criminal forfeiture.”

This post has been updated to include comment from the Pottawattamie County Attorney.

Georgia: Disbarred Lawyer Richard Merritt Jailed on Theft, Elder Abuse Charges



Georgia: Disbarred Lawyer Richard Merritt Jailed on Theft, Elder Abuse Charges
Attorney Richard Merritt was disbarred Monday for pocketing a client’s $75,000 settlement and jailed Wednesday on multiple felonies.

Georgia: Disbarred Lawyer Richard Merritt Jailed on Theft, Elder Abuse Charges
http://www.barcomplaint.com/attorney-theft/georgia-disbarred-lawyer-richard-merritt-jailed-on-theft-elder-abuse-charges/

The problems of Richard Merritt have come to a head with his arrest. This has been long coming has his behavior has been in question for several years.


Richard Vinson Merritt

Former Smyrna attorney Richard V. Merritt, who was disbarred Monday after admitting to settling a client’s suit for $75,000 and then pocketing the money, woke up in the Cobb County Jail Thursday after being arrested on separate felony elder abuse, theft, exploitation and check fraud charges.

The spokesperson for the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office said he had no further information on the charges, which were apparently filed by the Smyrna Police Department. The booking report includes a notation that Merritt is to be held for the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, where a press liaison said they received a bench warrant for “indirect criminal attempt.”

He provided no further information, and there was no immediate response from Smyrna police.

On Friday, Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds said there was little he could offer concerning Merritt’s case so far.

“We have yet to receive the complete investigative file from the Cobb Sheriff’s Department,” said Reynolds via email. “When we do, our White Collar Unit will begin the process of determining what charges we will proceed to the grand jury with. In addition, our Investigators will begin reviewing the file upon receipt to see if there are any additional victims or charges which need to be pursued.”

Merritt remained in jail on Friday afternoon.

Merritt is the subject of multiple civil suits in Cobb County, including one filed by a woman who claims he forged her name on a $150,000 settlement agreement and check without her knowledge. She claims Merritt never turned over any funds.

He also faces several legal malpractice and fraud lawsuits in Cobb County from clients claiming he agreed to handle their cases and then never filed them and never pursued any actions.

Merritt has represented himself in each of the lawsuits.

The attorney for a plaintiff in one case, Sapp & Moriarty partner Daniel Moriarty—interviewed before word of Merritt’s arrest was known—said he was surprised at the mild tone in the state Supreme Court’s disbarment opinion, which only said Merritt “settled a client’s personal injury matter for $75,000 but failed to promptly disburse those funds to his client or her medical providers and failed to render a full accounting of the funds to his client.”

“That’s a euphemism for stealing money,” said Moriarty. “I talked to an investigator who has seen his bank records and determined that he had stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars. It just blows my mind what he’s gotten away with.”

According the bar complaint reviewed by the Daily Report, Merritt was retained to handle a personal injury matter in December 2016 and settled it last February, cashing the forged check Feb.7. On Feb. 10, he filed a lawsuit “and continued to lead me on until late May 2017 when I learned what he had done,” the confidential complaint said.

“I have never seen a dime of the $75,000,” said Merritt’s former client.

Another civil suit filed in Cobb County State Court last year said Merritt forged a husband and wife’s signature on a settlement and check in a medical malpractice case and never told them.

Another complaint said Merritt accepted a med-mal case and continually told his client that he was investigating it. Merritt sent emails saying “All is well and we are moving forward on your case,” and “No worries I’m on it!”

Then he stopped accepting the woman’s calls, and the filing deadline passed.

In that case, Judge Maria Golick struck Merritt’s answers and ordered a damages-only trial after finding he “willfully failed to respond” to hearing notices. Golick scheduled a show-cause criminal contempt hearing, and the decision is apparently still under advisement, according to court records.

In the case Moriarty is handling, Merritt also allegedly claimed to be conducting discovery and searching for experts, even scheduling bogus depositions for his clients, only to cancel them at the last minute.

Merritt was the principal for the Smyrna-based Merritt Firm, whose offices were the subject of several dispossessory actions between 2015 and 2017, according to court records.

Last August, Merritt sued two attorneys on behalf of spine surgeon and frequent medical expert James Chappuis. At the time, Merritt said he vice president and general counsel of Chappuis’ Orthopaedic & Spine Surgery of Atlanta.

That case settled confidentially shortly after it was filed.

“It Ain’t as Bad As You Think” . ? . It Is As Bad As I Think, and Probably Even Worse


I keep thinking about that.  Being told that it really isn’t as bad as I think.  Hell if it ain’t!

When I was a little girl, we walked to school.  We would get there in the morning, and there would be the morning prayer.  Right after that, we all said I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag, and they played the National Anthem.  I started to school when I was four (4).  By the time I was in fourth grade, it was like the second elementary school.  They did not say the morning prayer, or play the anthem, but by golly, the whole time I was in school, we Pledged Allegiance to the Flag.  We were proud to be Americans.

Now, you get suspended for wearing anything with a flag on it.  The Ten Commandments, Pledge of Allegiance, and anything having to do with our natural heritage is bad.  Christians are bad.  Americans are bad.  Christian Americans must be very, very bad.  And who the hell decided all that?  That is bullshit.  Plain and simple, bullshit.  Since when have other people gone to live in another country, and was allowed to claim they were offended by the customs of that country, and the country changed for the outsiders?  Someone tell me when.  That is bullshit!  Plain and simple bullshit.

Seems like it began several years ago… SuperTarget in our area, told the GoodWill people at Christmas, not to come there any more.  Of course, after that, we never went back to that store, and it closed shortly thereafter.  For some reason, outsiders that had moved to the United States, were offended by Christmas, Nativity scenes, and GoodWill ringing their little bells at Christmas.  Those dedicated, hardworking GoodWill employees, trying to make a difference to others at a very hard time of year.  They never asked anyone for anything.  Just stood, ringing the bell and smiling.  It was tradition.  Christmas trees, nativity scenes, GoodWill.

So, in order to not to offend those, who are not from here, America changed? Bullshit.  I say, if our traditions offends you, you came into this country, you know you can leave the same damned way!  Every time I turn around, someone is explaining that such and such offends them.  Screw it!  I am offended by what people do in other countries, but I don’t move there, then expect them to change their country for me.  That is bullshit.  Plain and simple bullshit.

Now, they tell us that our forefathers were terrorists.  Do what?  So what kind of History lessons are they giving kids now a days?  Speaking of kids.  Since when does the govt. have balls enough to tell parents what they are or not going to feed their kids for lunch during school?  The other thing about kids, is that they belong to the community, not their parents?  Bullshit!  Plain and simple bullshit!  And these idiots put up with that?  I sure as hell am glad that my Mama was who she was.  She would have not only told them what horse to get on, she would have had them direct that horse, on out of the country.  And my Daddy, lo and behold, I am glad that he is not here to see this shit.  Daddy was gung-ho Marine.  He is probably rolling in his grave right now.

And someone wants to tell me, that it ain’t as bad as I think it is?  Bullshit!  Plain and simple bullshit!!!

DeKalb Commissioners Are On A Criminal Roll!


Updated: 4:13 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 | Posted: 10:11 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014

DeKalb Commissioner Boyer could serve prison time

By Johnny Edwards and Mark Niesse

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/criminal-charges-filed-against-former-dekalb-commi/ng82z/

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Elaine Boyer in federal court sketch photo
Richard Miller
082614 Atlanta: This is a photo copy of an artist rendition of the federal court appearance of DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer and her court appointed attorney Jeff Brickman into questionable use of taxpayer dollars on Tuesday, August 26, 2014, in Atlanta. By Courtroom artist Richard Miller
DeKalb commissioner resigns amid spending investigation gallery
 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A day after resigning from office, DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer announced in court Tuesday she would plead guilty to federal charges accusing her of two schemes to pocket tens of thousands of dollars from taxpayers.

Boyer, appearing calm and collected, told a judge she understood what she was doing, but it’s unknown whether she’ll serve time in prison.

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said she will seek a prison sentence for Boyer.

“This is a serious crime. She’s cooperating now after she was caught,” Yates said. Boyer’s guilty plea “doesn’t wipe the slate clean.”

Boyer’s attorney, Jeff Brickman, said he’ll ask a judge not to sentence Boyer to prison, although she doesn’t have a plea deal in place. She was to be released without supervision after being photographed and fingerprinted. She could be formally arraigned within 10 days.

A criminal filing earlier Tuesday said Boyer authorized more than $78,000 in county payments to an adviser who submitted false invoices for consulting work but did nothing.

The adviser then funneled about 75 percent of the money, more than $58,000, back into Boyer’s personal bank account, the document alleges. She faced a charge of mail fraud conspiracy for that scheme.

The court documents didn’t name the adviser and no charges apparently have been filed against that person, even though he apparently pocketed about $20,000 in taxpayer money. The documents say Boyer used her share for personal expenses, including purchases at hotels and high-end department stores.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was pressing Boyer to explain nearly $90,000 in checks to consultants before she resigned Monday and admitted she had betrayed taxpayers.

Federal prosecutors also accused Boyer of wire fraud for using her county purchasing card to pay for more than $15,000 in personal expenses. From October 2010 to February 2014, Boyer made more than 50 such purchases, prosecutors allege.

The AJC in March revealed that she had been tapping county funds to pay for airline tickets, a ski resort vacation, rental cars and personal cell phone expenses, triggering the federal investigation.

Boyer will have to forfeit any proceeds or property she obtained from the schemes, prosecutors wrote.

HON Office Chairs


Ok, I am going to go a little different direction with this post.  I have something to say, and cannot wait any longer.

Everyone in the Office World, is familiar with HON office furniture, chairs, task chairs in particular I speak of.  A while back, I ordered a chair to replace my old worn out chair that I spend 18-20 hours a day sitting in.  

Of course, I skimped on the chair, trying to watch the money.  Mainly because I didn’t have time to go around and check chairs out.  Yall know me, I order everything over the internet, and rarely see in person what it is that I am buying.  If I spend 18-20 hours a day at the computer, it leaves no time for shopping.

Anyway, I had always heard that HON chairs are “over-priced”, “not all that they are made out to be”, “not really all that comfortable”, you know… the kinds of things people say, when they cannot afford something.  We’ve all heard that kind of thing before.

Anyway, my bestest friend, the one that passed away at the first of the year, he was having a garage sale.  I don’t go to garage sales, but this particular day, I told James to come on and lets go out for a ride.  I know, don’t gasp at my boldness, leaving the house and all…  

Anyway, when I saw the HON, I immediately knew what it was.  I had no idea how much was invested in the chair, or how much they would want for it.  The cylinder was messed up and had slipped down and was digging into the ground.  One of the females over at Donnie’s had been going round and round and round, and said that it just slipped down. Other than that, it was in perfect shape.  I asked how much they wanted, and pointed out that the chair had issues.  Ten Dollars!

Done deal.  James did not quite understand the ramifications of such a chair.  Now he always tells me “Make sure you don’t do this, or don’t do that, you will probably never be able to buy such a chair again”.  

The other day, the cylinder had gotten to where it would not hold weight any longer.  James looked at everything.  This chair, let me tell you.  It has the height adjustment through the cylinder, and three other levers.  The seat tilts, it slides and tilts, the back is adjustable, and everything you can think of.  I love it!  Anyway, we determined that the cylinder had gone bad.  James told me that he did not know for sure, but that we could surely afford a new cylinder.

I pulled up HON on the internet, and oohed and aahed at all the task chairs similar to my own.  I was most impressed of course.  I could not determine how to get parts, so emailed.  That same day, they emailed me back.  I was so surprised that I almost deleted the email without realizing who it was from.  Long story short…  The warranty covered the cylinder.  A new one will be here 5-7 days, and they sent me instructions in the email letting me know about when to expect the cylinder.

Wow!  I just had to share this good news with someone.  I rarely have anything really good to say about anyone, especially companies nowadays.  HON has found a friend in me though.  I tell you what.  Their people over there, are some of the most friendly, personable people I have dealt with in many years.

So while you are listening to all the reasons not to buy a HON…know deep down inside why people are telling you those reasons.  I can tell you why you should.  Compared to any other chair that I have attempted to sit in for 18-20 hours a day, the HON is the one that don’t cause my legs and feet to swell nearly as bad; it is perfect for everything, with all those adjustments, you can get around being chair fatigued.  They are nice looking chairs.  The people at HON are wonderful to work with.  The complete chair, is also customizable.    Is that a word?  The speller in the computer says no, but we will go with it anyway.  

THANKS HON!!!

I’ve Said It Before, Will Say It Again, Until and Unless The Rest Of The World Gets Involved And Forces Action, We Might As Well All Kiss Our Asses GoodBye!!!


Everyone Needs to Understand, They Don’t Plan On Doing Anything To Stop the Problem.  Quit Fooling Yourselves.  Way Too Much Time Has Passed, They Had the Chance to Do Something, Anything.  They Just Don’t Care, and Why Should They?  They Are All Ready Toast and Know It!!!

‘Increasing alarm’ at Fukushima: Trenches filled with thousands of tons of plutonium contaminated liquid leaking into ocean — ‘Biggest risk’ at plant — ‘Exceptionally difficult’ problem — ‘Constant flow’ in and out of trenches — ‘Racing to stop’ more from coming in (PHOTO)

http://enenews.com/japan-officials-increasingly-alarmed-thousands-tons-plutonium-contaminated-liquid-fukushima-trenches-leaking-ocean-biggest-risk-plant-exceptionally-difficult-problem?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29

Published: August 7th, 2014 at 11:02 pm ET
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Wall St. Journal, Aug 7, 2014 (emphasis added): [Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority] said [Tepco] needs to get its priorities straight when it comes to work to decommission […] Fukushima Daiichi […] “The biggest risk is the trench water. Until that matter is addressed, it will be difficult to proceed with other decommissioning work,” [Tanaka] said on Wednesday at his weekly news conference. “It appears that they are getting off track,” he told reporters. Tepco has been trying to remove some 11,000 metric tons of water that contains dangerous radioactive materials such as uranium and plutonium from a trench that runs from the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s No.2 reactor building. […] “What if another tsunami hits the plant and the highly contaminated water in the trench is discharged… ?” Mr. Tanaka asked reporters.

NHK, July, 30, 2014: TEPCO initially planned to freeze radioactive wastewater that’s been flowing into underground utility tunnels [trenches] at the plant. It hoped the measure would prevent the wastewater from mixing with groundwater and flowing out to sea. But 3 months into the project, the water hasn’t frozen as planned.

Nuclear Engineering International, August 7, 2014: TEPCO has admitted that it has having problems with freezing contaminated water flowing in trenches  […] The water in the trenches is […] coming into contact with nuclear material[…]  because the water flows in and out of the trenches because of water pumping operations, it has proved ‘exceptionally difficult’ to freeze, TEPCO said. This was despite increasing the flow of coolant, adding ice and dry ice to the trench water […]

Kyodo, Aug. 5, 2014: Tepco is racing to stop the buildup of radioactive cooling water in the trenches. […] Tepco inserted refrigeration rods in the trenches to try to freeze the water butabandoned the effort after more than three frustrating months. […] Though [Tepco has now put] 58 tons of ice in the trenches, the utility has “yet to see” whether it will work […] The new method was introduced after an increasingly alarmed Nuclear Regulation Authority urged the company last month to take additional steps as soon as possible […]

World Nuclear News, July 24, 2014: New approaches to removing the contaminated water from trenches […] after attempts to freeze it failed. […] The trenches contain highly-contaminated water that has flowed from the main power plant buildings […] Tepco said that, despite the success of early experiments, “it has proved exceptionally difficult” to freeze the trench water. This, it said, is due to the constant flow of water into and out of the trench […]

See also: TV: Nuclear waste “flowing out to sea” from underground tunnels at Fukushima — 950 Billion Bq/m³ of cesium in Unit 2 shaft next to ocean — 11,000 tons estimated in tunnels — Gov’t regulators ‘urgently assessing’ problems (VIDEO)

Published: August 7th, 2014 at 11:02 pm ET
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Remember 2013 JP Morgan Settlement


Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Justice Department, Federal and State Partners Secure Record $13 Billion Global Settlement with JPMorgan for Misleading Investors About Securities Containing Toxic Mortgages
 

*CORRECTION: The release below previously stated that New York is receiving $613.8 million in this settlement, however, the number is $613.0 million. This correction notice was posted on Nov. 20, 2013.*

The Justice Department, along with federal and state partners, today announced a $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan – the largest settlement with a single entity in American history – to resolve federal and state civil claims arising out of the packaging, marketing, sale and issuance of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) by JPMorgan, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual prior to Jan. 1, 2009.  As part of the settlement, JPMorgan acknowledged it made serious misrepresentations to the public – including the investing public – about numerous RMBS transactions.  The resolution also requires JPMorgan to provide much needed relief to underwater homeowners and potential homebuyers, including those in distressed areas of the country.  The settlement does not absolve JPMorgan or its employees from facing any possible criminal charges.

This settlement is part of the ongoing efforts of President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force’s RMBS Working Group. 

“Without a doubt, the conduct uncovered in this investigation helped sow the seeds of the mortgage meltdown,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “JPMorgan was not the only financial institution during this period to knowingly bundle toxic loans and sell them to unsuspecting investors, but that is no excuse for the firm’s behavior.  The size and scope of this resolution should send a clear signal that the Justice Department’s financial fraud investigations are far from over.  No firm, no matter how profitable, is above the law, and the passage of time is no shield from accountability.  I want to personally thank the RMBS Working Group for its tireless work not only in this case, but also in the investigations that remain ongoing.”

The settlement includes a statement of facts, in which JPMorgan acknowledges that it regularly represented to RMBS investors that the mortgage loans in various securities complied with underwriting guidelines.  Contrary to those representations, as the statement of facts explains, on a number of different occasions, JPMorgan employees knew that the loans in question did not comply with those guidelines and were not otherwise appropriate for securitization, but they allowed the loans to be securitized – and those securities to be sold – without disclosing this information to investors.  This conduct, along with similar conduct by other banks that bundled toxic loans into securities and misled investors who purchased those securities, contributed to the financial crisis.
                                    
“Through this $13 billion resolution, we are demanding accountability and requiring remediation from those who helped create a financial storm that devastated millions of Americans,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West.  “The conduct JPMorgan has acknowledged – packaging risky home loans into securities, then selling them without disclosing their low quality to investors – contributed to the wreckage of the financial crisis.  By requiring JPMorgan both to pay the largest FIRREA penalty in history and provide needed consumer relief to areas hardest hit by the financial crisis, we rectify some of that harm today.”

Of the record-breaking $13 billion resolution, $9 billion will be paid to settle federal and state civil claims by various entities related to RMBS.  Of that $9 billion, JPMorgan will pay $2 billion as a civil penalty to settle the Justice Department claims under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA), $1.4 billion to settle federal and state securities claims by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), $515.4 million to settle federal and state securities claims by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), $4 billion to settle federal and state claims by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), $298.9 million to settle claims by the State of California, $19.7 million to settle claims by the State of Delaware, $100 million to settle claims by the State of Illinois, $34.4 million to settle claims by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and $613 million to settle claims by the State of New York. 

JPMorgan will pay out the remaining $4 billion in the form of relief to aid consumers harmed by the unlawful conduct of JPMorgan, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual.  That relief will take various forms, including principal forgiveness, loan modification, targeted originations and efforts to reduce blight.  An independent monitor will be appointed to determine whether JPMorgan is satisfying its obligations.  If JPMorgan fails to live up to its agreement by Dec. 31, 2017, it must pay liquidated damages in the amount of the shortfall to NeighborWorks America, a non-profit organization and leader in providing affordable housing and facilitating community development. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of California and Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Justice Department’s Civil Division, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, conducted investigations into JPMorgan’s, Washington Mutual’s and Bear Stearns’ practices related to the sale and issuance of RMBS between 2005 and 2008.

“Today’s global settlement underscores the power of FIRREA and other civil enforcement tools for combatting financial fraud,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Stuart F. Delery, co-chair of the RMBS Working Group.  “The Civil Division, working with the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and our state and agency partners, will continue to use every available resource to aggressively pursue those responsible for the financial crisis.”

“Abuses in the mortgage-backed securities industry helped turn a crisis in the housing market into an international financial crisis,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California Benjamin Wagner.  “The impacts were staggering.  JPMorgan sold securities knowing that many of the loans backing those certificates were toxic.  Credit unions, banks and other investor victims across the country, including many in the Eastern District of California, continue to struggle with losses they suffered as a result.  In the Eastern District of California, we have worked hard to prosecute fraud in the mortgage industry.  We are equally committed to holding accountable those in the securities industry who profited through the sale of defective mortgages.”
                                
“Today’s settlement represents another significant step towards holding accountable those banks which exploited the residential mortgage-backed securities market and harmed numerous individuals and entities in the process,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Zane David Memeger.  “These banks packaged and sold toxic mortgage-backed securities, which violated the law and contributed to the financial crisis.  It is particularly important that JPMorgan, after assuming the significant assets of Washington Mutual Bank, is now also held responsible for the unscrupulous and deceptive conduct of Washington Mutual, one of the biggest players in the mortgage-backed securities market.”

This settlement resolves only civil claims arising out of the RMBS packaged, marketed, sold and issued by JPMorgan, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual.  The agreement does not release individuals from civil charges, nor does it release JPMorgan or any individuals from potential criminal prosecution. In addition, as part of the settlement, JPMorgan has pledged to fully cooperate in investigations related to the conduct covered by the agreement.

To keep JPMorgan from seeking reimbursement from the federal government for any money it pays pursuant to this resolution, the Justice Department required language in the settlement agreement which prohibits JPMorgan from demanding indemnification from the FDIC, both in its capacity as a corporate entity and as the receiver for Washington Mutual.   

“The settlement announced today will provide a significant recovery for six FDIC receiverships.  It also fully protects the FDIC from indemnification claims out of this settlement,” said FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg.  “The FDIC will continue to pursue litigation where necessary in order to recover as much as possible for FDIC receiverships, money that is ultimately returned to the Deposit Insurance Fund, uninsured depositors and creditors of failed banks.”

“NCUA’s Board extends our thanks and appreciation to our attorneys and to the Department of Justice, who have worked closely together for more than three years to bring this matter to a successful resolution,” said NCUA Board Chairman Debbie Matz.  “The faulty mortgage-backed securities created and packaged by JPMorgan and other institutions created a crisis in the credit union industry, and we’re pleased a measure of accountability has been reached.”

“JPMorgan and the banks it bought securitized billions of dollars of defective mortgages,” said Acting FHFA Inspector General Michael P. Stephens.  “Investors, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, suffered enormous losses by purchasing RMBS from JPMorgan, Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns not knowing about those defects.  Today’s settlement is a significant, but by no means final step by FHFA-OIG and its law enforcement partners to hold accountable those who committed  acts of fraud and deceit.  We are proud to have worked with the Department of Justice, the U.S. attorneys in Sacramento and Philadelphia and the New York and California state attorneys general; they have been great partners and we look forward to our continued work together.”

The attorneys general of New York, California, Delaware, Illinois and Massachusetts also conducted related investigations that were critical to bringing about this settlement.

“Since my first day in office, I have insisted that there must be accountability for the misconduct that led to the crash of the housing market and the collapse of the American economy,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Co-Chair of the RMBS Working Group.  “This historic deal, which will bring long overdue relief to homeowners around the country and across New York, is exactly what our working group was created to do.  We refused to allow systemic frauds that harmed so many New York homeowners and investors to simply be forgotten, and as a result we’ve won a major victory today in the fight to hold those who caused the financial crisis accountable.”

“JP Morgan Chase profited by giving California’s pension funds incomplete information about mortgage investments,” California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said. “This settlement returns the money to California’s pension funds that JP Morgan wrongfully took from them.”

“Our financial system only works when everyone plays by the rules,” said Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden.  “Today, as a result of our coordinated investigations, we are holding accountable one of the financial institutions that, by breaking those rules, helped cause the economic crisis that brought our nation to its knees.  Even as the American people recover from this crisis, we will continue to seek accountability on their behalf.”

“We are still cleaning up the mess that Wall Street made with its reckless investment schemes and fraudulent conduct,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.  “Today’s settlement with JPMorgan will assist Illinois in recovering its losses from the dangerous and deceptive securities that put our economy on the path to destruction.”

“This is a historic settlement that will help us to hold accountable those investment banks that played a role in creating and exacerbating the housing crisis,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.  “We appreciate the work of the Department of Justice and the other enforcement agencies in bringing about this resolution and look forward to continuing to work together in other securitization cases.”

The RMBS Working Group is a federal and state law enforcement effort focused on investigating fraud and abuse in the RMBS market that helped lead to the 2008 financial crisis.  The RMBS Working Group brings together more than 200 attorneys, investigators, analysts and staff from dozens of state and federal agencies including the Department of Justice, 10 U.S. attorney’s offices, the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), HUD’s Office of Inspector General, the FHFA-OIG, the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Federal Reserve Board’s Office of Inspector General, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and more than 10 state attorneys general offices around the country.

The RMBS Working Group is led by five co-chairs: Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Stuart Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Mythili Raman, Co-Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement George Canellos, U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado John Walsh and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Learn more about the RMBS Working Group and the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force at: http://www.stopfraud.gov. 

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