Holder Deadline for Prosecuting Wall Street Executives for Financial Crisis Passes without a Single Charge

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Eric Holder (photo: Molly Riley, AP)

Shortly before Attorney General Eric Holder left office, he gave his prosecutors 90 days to decide whether to indict any Wall Street executives for decisions that caused the 2008 financial crisis.


Holder has now left the building at the Department of Justice (DOJ). Also gone is his deadline for punishing big bankers, none of whom were charged with a crime.


Holder’s shop had six years to build cases against key people at institutions like Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase. It’s not known if prosecutors ever did that. What is known is that the only charges actually filed by DOJ lawyers have been against smaller fish, namely those working at small and medium sized banks, according the Center for Public Integrity (CPI).


The investigative news site reviewed enforcement actions and civil lawsuits filed by the Justice Department, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and found “these agencies have been far more likely to charge or sue individuals who work at small and medium sized banks, and foreign financial firms, than those that work at domestic banking giants such as J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. or Citigroup.”


CPI’s Alison Fitzgerald reported that none of the five largest banks in the country are involved in criminal cases filed by the Justice Department that pertain to the financial crisis.


“Two defendants who were unsuccessfully prosecuted ran a hedge fund for the now-defunct investment bank Bear Stearns,” she wrote. “About a dozen others are from smaller banks or foreign institutions.”


At the SEC, only four of the more than 100 bank executives named in lawsuits were from the top five banks, according to Fitzgerald. The FDIC has sued nearly 2,000 bank executives, none of whom worked at any of the big Wall Street banks.


“There’s no question that these banks have admitted that they’ve violated laws and regulations,” Independent Community Banker of America CEO Camden Fine told CPI. “These guys on Wall Street get their checkbooks out and write a check. This is an issue of unequal enforcement.”


For his part, Holder recently defended his efforts and that of the DOJ to prosecute individuals at the big banks for criminal wrongdoing. “To the extent that individuals have not been prosecuted, people should understand it is not for lack of trying,” he said.


“Nonsense,” countered former U.S. Assistant Attorney General Jimmy Gurulé. “Charges for white-collar crimes are filed every single day by U.S. attorneys across the country,” he told International Business Times. “Just because they’re more difficult with banks is not a legitimate excuse for bringing zero charges against individuals.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Bankers From Major Institutions Still Haven't Been Held Responsible For Financial Crash (by Alison Fitzgerald, Center for Public Integrity)

Who Caused The Financial Crisis? Prosecutors Face 3-Month Deadline for Bringing Charges in the Subprime Mortgage Mess (by Owen Davis, International Business Times)

Instead of Wall St. Prosecutions, Holder Delivers a Deadline (by William Cohan, New York Times)

Eric Holder’s Last Chance to Prosecute Financial Meltdown Bankers (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Jay Ligon 8 years ago
While Mr. Holder's term of office has been scandal-free, rarely has an Attorney General been a greater disappointment. When he came into office, the nation was floundering economically from financial crimes which were breath-taking in scope and catastrophic in effect. The Bush Administration made the point again and again, that our nation of laws was no so, that those with power and riches were immune from prosecution. The nation needed to see the perp walk. The perpetrators of the largest bank heist in world history would pay some price. That did not happen because Mr. Holder was afraid that innocent workers might lose jobs. So the innocent kept their jobs, and the trillions looted from our banks and investment banks remained in the pockets of the perpetrators. The banks already had armies of lawyers; they did not need an advocate whose job it was to prosecute crime. The perpetrators were never punished and they continued commit crimes. As Sen. Warren asked: how many billions of drug cartel money must a bank launder before they are held accountable for their crimes? Apparently, there is no limit.

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