Eric Holder Backtracks Remarks on “Too Big To Jail”

Share:
Attorney General Eric Holder gestures while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 15, 2013, before the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the Justice Department. Holder told Congress Wednesday that a serious national security leak required the secret gathering of telephone records at The Associated Press as he stood by an investigation in which he insisted he had no involvement.

Attorney General Eric Holder gestures while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 15, 2013, before the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the Justice Department. Holder told Congress Wednesday that a serious national security leak required the secret gathering of telephone records at The Associated Press as he stood by an investigation in which he insisted he had no involvement. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

May 16, 2013
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 on Wednesday sought to walk back comments that some financial institutions may be too large to prosecute, telling lawmakers at a lively Capitol Hill hearing that no single bank is above the law.

In a March appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Holder testified that big banks’ clout “has an inhibiting impact” on prosecutions. As he explained:

I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult to prosecute them … 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.

Holder’s comments echoed statements made by Lanny Breuer, the former head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, to correspondent Martin Smith in the FRONTLINE film The Untouchables. The economic impact of prosecuting a large financial firm is “a factor we need to know and understand,” Breuer said. Such considerations “literally keep me up at night,” Breuer said in a 2012 speech to the New York City Bar Association.

On Wednesday, the attorney general backtracked his earlier remarks, saying they had been “misconstrued.”

“Let me be very, very, very clear,” Holder said. “Banks are not too big to jail. If we find a bank or a financial institution that has done something wrong, if we can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, those cases will be brought.”

The Justice Department, he added, has brought thousands of financially based cases over the course of the last four-and-a-half years. To date, however, no Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for fraud in connection with the financial crisis. Instead, the government has largely focused on a strategy of securing multi-billion settlements from financial firms, but rarely requiring an admission of wrongdoing.


Jason M. Breslow

Jason M. Breslow, Digital Editor

Twitter:

@jbrezlow

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.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

Number of Gunshot Victims in Minneapolis is Up 90% From Last Year; Solutions Elusive
As Minneapolis struggles to develop a new approach to public safety amid intense scrutiny of its police department, it faces a depressingly familiar problem: how to curb surging gun violence as the weather warms.
June 19, 2021
The Doctor is Out: Texas Community Worries About Future Without Local Healthcare
The problem the residents of Bowie, TX, face is one that has become more prevalent around the U.S. as at least 136 rural hospitals have closed in the last decade.
June 18, 2021
America’s Legacy of Racist Killings: Key Takeaways from ‘Un(re)solved’
Civil rights era cold case killings. A federal effort to right past wrongs. What a FRONTLINE investigation reveals about the lives lost and the search for justice.
June 17, 2021
Last Responders — Coroners, Funeral Workers and Others — Say They Faced Risks as COVID Spread
Although the CDC maintains the risk of contracting COVID-19 from a dead body is low, there is no U.S. government agency tracking infection rates among last responders: medical examiners, coroners, embalmers, funeral directors and other trained mortuary workers. Workers told FRONTLINE they believe they’re highly exposed.
June 17, 2021