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The Obama administration has announced the formation of a new task force to target financial fraud. It replaces an earlier corporate fraud unit created in 2002 by the Bush administration following a series of corporate scandals. Attorney General Eric Holder says the new group will have a broader scope, and be able to provide better coordination among federal and state agencies that investigate and prosecute financial crimes.
The Obama administration is pledging a more aggressive effort to prosecute and discourage financial fraud. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who will lead the task force, says fraud has caused hardship for thousands of Americans and contributed to the worst financial crisis in decades.
"This task force's mission is not just to hold accountable those who helped bring about the last financial meltdown, but to prevent another meltdown from occurring," Holder said. "By punishing criminals for their actions, we will send a strong message to anyone looking to profit from the misfortunes of others."
Formation of the high level panel comes as the administration wrestles with a weak economy and public outrage over Wall Street bonuses. It also comes amid criticism that regulators ignored irregularities that allowed imprisoned financier Bernard Madoff to perpetrate one of the biggest frauds in U.S. history.
"By carrying out this mission aggressively and effectively, we will promote the integrity of our markets, preserve taxpayers' resources, and protect the vast majority of consumers, investors, and companies that play by the rules and adhere to the law," Holder states.
The task force will include representatives from various federal and state agencies working together to investigate crimes from mortgage fraud to insider trading.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the administration also plans to initiate financial reforms to discourage fraudulent activity before it can start. "We need to do everything we can to help restore trust and confidence in our system and central to that effort is enacting stronger and smarter rules with much stronger and much more proactive enforcement,' he said.
The task force replaces one created in 2002 by the Bush administration following the corporate scandals that led to the collapse of energy giant Enron Corporation.