Eric Holder Wants His Legacy to Be Punishing Bad Banks

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In the next couple days, the Justice Department will likely secure a guilty plea — and a $2 billion settlement — from Credit Suisse for allegedly helping wealthy Americans evade taxes. If all goes according to plan, it will be the first in a string of multi-billion settlements with foreign and domestic banks. Attorney General Eric Holder wants his legacy to be that of an enforcer.

Holder made history last year by negotiating a $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Now that his confidence is up, he's pursuing deals with Bank of America and Citigroup related to the banks' mortgage-backed securities businesses that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis. And in addition to the Credit Suisse settlement, the DOJ plans to secure a guilty plea from French bank BNP Paribas for allegedly evading U.S. economic sanctions in Iran. He told Devlin Barrett at The Wall Street Journal

I am impatient. We're talking about conduct that contributed to the greatest financial disaster since the Great Depression. Not the sole cause, but contributed to it, so this is a priority, and that's why I'm dedicating so much time to it.

Holder also might not be the attorney general for much longer, so it's important to him to nail some of these banks while he can. He's promised to stay on through the midterm elections, so he has at least that long to prove to Americans that no bank is "too big to jail." President Obama would especially appreciate his Justice Department getting justice — he's been criticized throughout his presidency for failing to jail anyone for the 2008 crisis. Just last month, Matt Taibbi suggested that former President George W. Bush has a better legacy when it comes to punishing corporate America for wrongdoing:

If you go back to the early 2000s, think about all these high-profile cases: Adelphia, Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen. All of these companies were swept up by the Bush Justice Department. ... Fast-forward again to the next big crisis [in 2008], and how many people have we got — have we actually put in jail? Zero.

Holder's legacy is Obama's legacy, too. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.