Attorney General Eric Holder, appointed in the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency, is beginning to have his legacy evaluated and it is not looking good. A creature of Wall Street who helped represent some of the culprits of the mortgage crisis in private practice, Holder never made an honest or substantive efforts to go after his former clients who helped crash the economy in 2008.
Now Holder’s lackluster record on upholding the rule of law has been criticized both by elected officials from his own party and the very department he leads as a recent Department of Justice Inspector General’s report noted that prosecuting Wall Street criminals was a low priority on Holder’s watch.
More like a non-existent priority.
Ted Kaufman, a former Democratic Delaware senator who chaired Judiciary Committee hearings examining the dearth of prosecutions, says the lack of action on Wall Street corruption is likely to be “the single biggest thing” historians remember about Holder’s tenure. “The attorney general has done a lot of good things, don’t get me wrong. But this is certainly not his finest hour, not by a long shot,” Kaufman told me. “It just doesn’t pass the sniff test.”
In a scathing report released in March, the Justice Department’s own inspector general found that the criminal division’s efforts to hold Wall Street executives accountable were a low priority—in some cases, the lowest priority—despite Holder’s claim that it was at the top of his to-do list. “It was never his priority,” a former top Holder deputy told me. “He cared about national security and civil rights. … Wall Street wasn’t even on his radar.”
Actually Holder went beyond just ignoring Wall Street’s crimes and set a new precedent claiming that banks were Too Big To Jail, that prosecuting them risked destabilizing the economy and they were therefore essentially above the law. Not surprisingly, when you tell banksters they are above the law they are encouraged to break the rules when it leads to more profits.
Thanks in part to Holder’s inaction, the rich criminals on Wall Street emerged from the crisis even richer while the average American who worked hard and played by the rules saw a major loss of wealth and continues to mired in a stagnant economy. Quite a legacy.
Photo by Brandon under Creative Commons license.