Has the Department of Justice finally figured out how to prosecute Wall Street bankers?  They think they may have.

The Justice Department admitted late last week that they’ve been approaching Wall Street crime the wrong way.  That comes as a shock to approximately zero people in the U.S., as anyone who’s read the news in the last 7 years knows that the DOJ is completely useless when it comes to prosecuting white collar banking criminals.

But the DOJ says that they now know how to go after criminals.  Rather than taking on companies as a whole, they will now focus on individuals that commit crimes.  Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates released a memo late last week saying that the Department is now going to hone in on individuals, which they hope will deter banking crimes in the future.

Yates further explained that since it is obviously impossible to physically put a company in prison, focusing on the actions of individuals will help bring more accountability to the industry.  The plan going forward will be to have companies turn over the names of those involved so that prosecutions can take place, should there be sufficient evidence.

I want to be optimistic about this new plan by the DOJ but it’s difficult considering how many times we’ve been promised action and were left with more of the same.  Just a few months ago, former AG Eric Holder promised that prosecutions were coming within 90 days, but instead of prosecutions, he left to rejoin his former white collar criminal defense law firm.  But Holder is gone now, so maybe this is a new era for the Justice Department.

Another factor that we have to consider is that the DOJ is hoping to make up for lost time before the 2016 election.  President Obama was swept into office on a wave of anti-banker resentment, and he understands that the public is wholly disappointed with his lack of action – A disappointment that could cost the Democratic Party some votes in 2016.  So this could be Obama’s way of shoring up his legacy before he leaves office as well as a way to uphold the promises that he made to voters all those years ago.

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Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at DeSmogBlog.com. He also hosts the weekly DeSmogCAST and serves as co-host for Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced