Supporters lauded Attorney General Eric Holder’s legacy on civil rights when he announced his resignation at the end of September. But his work—or lack thereof—going after the country’s biggest banks complicit in the recent financial meltdown has left many scratching their heads.
Holder took a hard line in refusing to back the Defense of Marriage Act in court and has won praise for his engagement during the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, earlier this summer. But his lack of response to the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression could smear his glowing reputation in the history books. Policymakers have largely pieced together how the financial industry’s reckless lending destabilized the housing market and sent the economy reeling, but prosecutors have been slow to act in response.
The biggest banks—JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup—have all recently paid multibillion-dollar fines stemming from the mortgage fraud perpetrated in the lead-up to and fallout from the crisis, but no top executives have gone to jail. Moreover, those companies copped to civil charges, but have not faced criminal prosecution.