“The Justice Department’s announcement that it would target individual executives at banks and other companies that are being investigated for wrongdoing has sparked a debate about whether the move is truly substantive or instead just designed to boost the agency’s public image.
“Critics said the policy, detailed in a memo and speech by a top Justice official, was just an attempt by the DOJ to score political points for new Attorney General Loretta Lynch, without having much impact on how Justice conducts its investigations.
“It’s a great headline but it’s hard to see how this really changes much on the ground,” said Jaret Seiberg, a policy analyst with Guggenheim Partners. “The government has prosecuted traders and other people who actually engaged in illegal activity. This pronouncement doesn’t change the problem, which is that there typically isn’t any evidence that senior executives were responsible or aware of the criminal activity. If that evidence existed, the government would have acted — regardless of this new policy memo.”
“Dennis Kelleher, the president of advocacy group Better Markets, was similarly dubious.
“Frankly, I’m so skeptical that I’m concerned that this speech is just a little PR before they announce their next, latest bogus settlement with some big Wall Street bank,” he said. “It’s a hopeful sign for the new attorney general, but she needs to take serious action to prove that her words are not as empty as her predecessor.”
Read the full American Banker article by Rob Blackwell, Victoria Finkle and Joe Adler here.