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September 29, 2014

Holder’s Mixed Legacy on White-Collar Crime

Eric H. Holder Jr.’s last year as attorney general was marked by multibillion-dollar settlements with big banks for their role in fueling the boom in subprime mortgages. They were a long-awaited response to the financial crisis but came after precious few prosecutions of corporate executives.

In looking at Mr. Holder’s legacy in white-collar crime cases, the pursuit of corporations, especially banks, stands out. The highest settlements for violations have come in the last year. These include the $13 billion from JPMorgan Chase and the $16.65 billion from Bank of America for their roles in issuing mortgage-backed securities tied to faulty subprime loans. BNP Paribas also paid a $9 billion fine for violating economic sanctions laws. BNP was also required to enter a guilty plea to a criminal charge, a rarity in the world of corporate criminal prosecutions. But prosecutors did not file charges against any individuals for the wrongdoing that led to the large settlements.

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