With Attorney General Eric Holder’s departure from Washington, critics say Wall Street is losing someone who has essentially given the industry a pass on the excesses that led to the financial crisis. In another potential wrinkle for Wall Street, two of the leading candidates who could follow in Holder’s footsteps both have a history of ruffling feathers in the financial industry.
Critics of Wall Street have slammed Holder for not prosecuting top executives during his time leading the Department of Justice. A Democratic operative who spoke to Business Insider about Holder’s time as attorney general called his lack of financial industry prosecutions “bizarre,” particularly in light of the fact “this administration entered office during the middle of the worst financial crisis since the great depression.”
“He could not have been more of a disappointment in terms of dealing with the issues that led to the collapse of the financial markets and the global economy,” the operative said of Holder. “He had an opportunity and, frankly, a responsibility to say there was a whole host of systemically illegal and improper behavior and to go after it.”
Holder, whose office did not respond to a request for comment on this story from Business Insider, attempted to address this criticism at a congressional hearing last year. At the hearing, Holder argued it was dangerous to impose overly harsh penalties on leaders of financial institutions because it could have a negative impact on the economy.
“The size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy,” Holder said.
However, this explanation has not satisfied those who argue Holder has been far too soft on the financial industry. The Democratic operative who discussed the attorney general with Business Insider argued Holder’s comments were a weak excuse for a “dereliction of duty.”