Since its online publication last night, bloggers have been lambasting a reportorial effort by The Wall Street Journal titled “Niche Lawyers Spawned Housing Fracas.” Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism raked the article over the coals for the logical leaps it makes in an attempt to implicate lawyers as the key instigators of the current foreclosure fiasco. Barry Ritholz at The Big Picture called it the “Dumb Article of the Day, from the former best paper in America.”
It doesn’t take expertise in foreclosure law or even a passing knowledge of the housing market to confidently slap a “tendentious” label on the article and move on. The flawed central idea can be summed up this way: The lawyers who exposed fraudulent foreclosure affidavits bear responsibility for a mortgage fiasco that may or may threaten the largest U.S. banks. In other words, we wouldn’t be in this mess if those nosy lawyers hadn’t raised a stink about robosigners and other instances of legal hanky panky.
As a reportorial endeavor, the piece can most generously be described as puzzling. That a publication would seek to expose a side of a story that gives comfort to its readers would come as a shock to only the most naive consumer of media. But it’s hard even to imagine even the most pro-bank reader taking comfort in “Niche Lawyers Spawned Housing Fracas.” The article essentially questions the value in exposing illegal activity and subjecting it to judicial scrutiny. Who’s going to take that bait?
Let’s put on our tinfoil hats and speculate that the banks implicated in the ongoing nationwide investigation into potential foreclosure fraud somehow got The Journal to write this nonsense in hopes of swaying public opinion in favor of the big banks and against the laws that serve as checks against their power. It’s troubling that The Journal‘s hypothetical shadow editors think this would work.
mtaylor [at] observer.com | @mbrooktaylor