Holder: Big Banks’ Clout “Has an Inhibiting Impact” on Prosecutions

by
Watch The Untouchables, FRONTLINE’s look at why no Wall Street executives have been prosecuted for fraud in connection with the financial crisis.

Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Justice Department had considered the economic fallout that could result from prosecuting major banks for their role in the financial crisis, in Senate testimony on Tuesday.

Holder’s comments underscored remarks his deputy, Lanny Breuer, gave in an interview for FRONTLINE’s film The Untouchables that raised concerns among some in government that the Justice Department hasn’t been sufficiently aggressive in prosecuting major banks for the fiscal crisis.

“I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult to prosecute them,” Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “When we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps world economy, that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large. It has an inhibiting impact on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate. That is something that you all need to consider.”

Holder added that he felt the department had been “appropriately aggressive,” in pursuing and bringing cases where it could prove companies or individuals had broken the law. “These are not easy cases to make,” he said. “Things were done wrong, but the question is whether they’re illegal.”

So far, no Wall Street executives have been prosecuted for fraud in connection with the financial crisis.

Breuer’s interview, which you can read in full here, sparked a Jan. 29 letter from Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) asking for more information on how the Justice Department determined which cases to prosecute. It also asked for the names of any outside experts Justice consulted, and what they were paid.

The Justice Department responded (pdf) one month later, defending its record. But the senators said the letter was “aggressively evasive” and didn’t answer their questions.

On Tuesday, Holder told Grassley that the DOJ would “endeavor to answer” the senators’ letter.

Holder’s full testimony is embedded below. (The exchange on financial fraud prosecutions┬ábegins around the 2:17:22 mark.)

blog comments powered by Disqus

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS
Frontline Journalism Fund

Supporting Investigative Reporting

Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, The Ford Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.
PBSCPBMacArthur FoundationPark FoundationFord Foundationwyncote

FRONTLINE   Watch FRONTLINE   About FRONTLINE   Contact FRONTLINE
Privacy Policy   Journalistic Guidelines   PBS Privacy Policy   PBS Terms of Use   Corporate Sponsorship
FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.