Last week, Matt Taibbi wrote, Eric Holder, Wall Street Double Agent, Comes in From the Cold. I will admit to not staying up on matters of corporate malfeasance. But I find it especially outraging whenever I do read about it. And I’ve long had major problems with Eric Holder. Taibbi summed him up this way, “He institutionalized a radical dualistic approach to criminal justice, essentially creating a system of indulgences wherein the world’s richest companies paid cash for their sins and escaped the sterner punishments the law dictated.” That’s what so terrible about it all: the double standard where the poor get prison and the rich get, well, nothing.
But I didn’t know that Holder came from a top corporate law firm before he became Attorney General. He made $2.5 million as a partner at Covington & Burling, the last year he was there. And for the six years he was gone, they left his old office empty, waiting for the day that he would return. And now that day has arrived. And we can only assume that the corporate criminals that Holder consistently let get away will be very happy to pay him and his law firm back now.
Taibbi figures that the amount of money that Holder saved the banking industry amounts to billions of dollars, just based upon what happened to bank share prices after each wrist slap was announced by the Justice Department. But it doubtless goes deeper than that. After all, what is the value of not going to prison for a bank CEO? It’s got to be huge for them. Not only are people like that terrified of prison, but every year they were in prison would have been tens of millions of dollars that they weren’t getting paid. So I have little doubt that the bankers are indeed very pleased with Holder, and thus Covington & Burling is too.
As Attorney General, Holder invented a concept called “collateral consequences.” According to it, the Justice Department should avoid criminal prosecutions against banks “if they believed prosecuting them might result in too much ‘collateral’ damage.” This is exactly “too big to jail.” And think about that. When a father is sent to prison, it has huge consequences beyond those of the man imprisoned. His family is devastated. The consequences span generations. Yet no judge cares about this. But when it comes to the richest, most powerful people, well, considerations must be made.
Another thing that Holder pushed was the “extrajudicial settlement.” These were agreements with banks that circumvented the judicial system. The reason for this is so that even judges aren’t able to stick their noses in the process. You see, some judges would occasionally look at the giveaways that Holder and company were offering to the banks, and balk. The banks didn’t like this because the deals were great for them. And Holder didn’t like this because it highlighted what a farce he was as Attorney General.
There are plenty of other things like Holder allowing banks to call fines for wrongdoing “remedial payments,” so they could write them off (that is, make taxpayers pay part of them). But the picture is clear. On the other hand, Holder was the perfect Attorney General for Obama: a man totally beholden to the power elite, who thinks that being beholden is the right thing to do.