New York Attorney General Speaks at TAU Law School

"People's Lawyer" Eric Schneiderman shared views on the economic crash and the future of banking

Eric Schneiderman

Tel Aviv University's acclaimed Buchmann Faculty of Law was a must-visit destination for the Honorable Eric Schneiderman, New York State Attorney General, during his visit to Israel last week.

Fresh from a news-making $25 million settlement with five of America's largest banks over their use of a private national mortgage electronic system, Schneiderman addressed a full house of TAU students and faculty on March 13, 2012, speaking about the state of banking and financial law in America and participating in a candid question and answer session.

Schneiderman, dubbed the "People's Lawyer," is at the forefront of U.S. officials dealing with the legal aftermath of the 2008 economic crash. He gave the audience an inside view of how the crash came about and the current challenges that the American legal system is facing. "I view my job as having three different parts," he explained. "Ensuring there is accountability for those who broke the law, providing meaningful relief to the homeowners and investors who were hurt, and getting the facts out to the public in order to prevent this kind of catastrophe from happening again."

TAU Vice President of Development Prof. Raanan Rein and Dean of the Law Faculty Prof. Ron Harris introduced Schneiderman, a Harvard Law School graduate with over 15 years experience in the legal profession. It was a rare opportunity for students to learn from one of the world's most influential legal figures, noted Prof. Harris, calling the office of New York Attorney General unique for its ability to "regulate, impact, and shape the financial capital of the world."

Noting that TAU was honored to host such a distinguished international jurist, Prof. Rein noted that the appearance reflected the importance of the Faculty of Law in TAU's emergence as a global university, citing joint programs with University of California Berkley and Northwestern University as examples. It's an effort that Schneiderman applauds: "The future is a legal system in which we all have our local elements, but the global economy requires the law to adapt," he said.

Re-establishing equal justice

Referring to the economic crash and the now dire financial position of many Americans with underwater mortgages and home foreclosures, the legal system has gotten off track, Schneiderman said. Moving forward in his role at Attorney General, his goal is to represent the millions who were hurt by the crash and to re-establish the sense of equal justice in both the courts and the government.

"For millions of American homeowners, there is no relief in sight. That is what we are trying to address through my office," he said. "This is not about identifying and punishing villains, but restoring balance and confidence to the system, to help people believe again that an investment is something they can trust."

Currently, he is working with American lawmakers to curtail the abuses of the system and establish more regulations that will hold banks and corporations responsible for their actions. In a year from now, he hopes to have a regulatory system in place that will prevent the same crisis from reoccurring.

An "honorable profession"

Speaking to the law students in attendance, Schneiderman congratulated them for their achievements, calling the legal profession "the most honorable" that he knows, assuring students that their chosen path will call upon them to "determine in difficult situations what is right and wrong, who should bear the cost and burden, and what is the moral culpability."

It's a profession that is deeply rooted in the Jewish tradition, he said, with issues of justice playing a key role throughout Judaism.  As for himself, says Schneiderman, he thinks that his future will always include the practice of law, which he credits for giving him a sense of grounding.

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