In Newsweek, Peter Boyer and Peter Schweizer explore the question of President Obama’s Justice Department’s failure to press any major criminal charges against Wall Street. We learn, distressingly, that “finance-fraud prosecutions by the Department of Justice are at 20-year lows.” Ex-Countrywide whistle-blower Eileen Foster, to name one prominent critic of the Justice Department’s inaction, is still urging the Justice Department to do something about her former colleagues, but to no avail. What’s holding them back?
Well, a lot of things. For one, criminal cases for finance-related wrongdoing are hard and complicated to prosecute. The Justice Department is stocked with a lot of people with experience defending financial institutions — including Attorney General Eric Holder, a former partner at Covington & Burling, which represents many of the worst of the mega-banks. Plus, curiously, a lot of Goldman executives and other Wall Street types keep donating lots of money to Obama! (Though less money than they gave him in 2008.) The simple answer is that Holder, and Obama, seem to think that while Wall Street did a lot of stupid, venal things that ruined everyone’s lives, those things were largely … legal. Obama said as much to Rolling Stone: “In some cases, really irresponsible practices that hurt a lot of people might not have been technically against the law.” He might be not entirely wrong! Lots of horrible finance industry practices were and are perfectly legal. But we’ll never quite know whether the line was crossed until we … actually investigate.
So it’s all the odder that Wall Street is so damn mad at Obama, right?