During a speech at the National Press Club, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Department of Justice might actually prosecute individuals responsible for the financial collapse in 2008.
Holder said he’s asked attorneys “to try to develop cases against individuals and to report back in 90 days with regard to whether they think they can successfully bring criminal or civil cases against those individuals.”
“To the extent that individuals have not been prosecuted, people should understand: it is not for lack of trying,” said Holder. “There are the kinds of cases that people come to the Justice Department to make.”
Part of the problem with Holder’s remarks is that nothing in the past shows that the DoJ has had any intention of going after the banking executives themselves. The big banks involved all reached cash settlements: Bank of America – $16.65 billion, Citigroup – $7 billion, and JPMorgan Chase – $13 billion.
Also, Holder himself will not be the one going after these banks. Holder will leave the office of Attorney General when the Senate confirms President Obama’s nominee – US Attorney Loretta Lynch.
Lynch’s past actions on cases of this nature also don’t provide any evidence that she will go after individuals either. She played an instrumental part in putting together HSBC’s deferred-prosecution deal after the bank was caught laundering money for groups like Mexican drug cartels. HSBC was fined $1.9 billion – or about five weeks of profits – and no one involved from the bank saw jail time.
While going after the individuals responsible rather than just slapping the big banks on the wrist with fines is the right move, it’s likely that Holder’s remarks about going after them are just talk.
Watch Holder’s speech to the National Press Club. His comments on the big banks start at about the 51:50 mark.