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August 21, 2015

Why ‘Too Big to Jail’ Is Still a Matter of Debate

“The failure to prosecute bankers as a result of the financial crisis has sparked an ongoing debate about whether enforcement officials lacked the will to move forward with any cases—or didn’t have enough proof that any crimes had been committed.

“Far from fading into the background, the issue remains in the forefront as policymakers debate how to address “too big to jail.” A lack of will could be addressed by more forceful leadership, but a lack of proof might call for changes to the way financial crimes are prosecuted.

“On the one side are Wall Street critics who argue that if the Justice Department acted more vigorously and dedicated more resources to investigating the banks and uncovering violations, the agency could have brought charges and won convictions.

“If they were serious — if they put two or three dozen of their best [Assistant U.S. Attorneys] and a couple hundred of their best FBI agents on this, you would have seen a bunch of handcuffs and a bunch of prison sentences,” said Dennis Kelleher, president and chief executive officer of Better Markets, a public advocacy group. “Essentially you had a corporate defense bar mentality pervasive at the SEC and the DOJ, which was populated by corporate defense lawyers who found corporate defense lawyers’ arguments being made to them … incredibly persuasive.”

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Read the full American Banker article by John Heltman here.

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