WASHINGTON – No company or individual is too big to jail, Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday as the Justice Department prepares criminal charges against two of Europe’s largest banks.
In a video message posted on the Justice Department’s website, Holder said that “when laws indeed appear to have been broken, and the evidence supports the allegations, a company’s size will never be a shield from prosecution or penalty.”
The Justice Department has faced criticism that federal prosecutors have failed to bring criminal charges against Wall Street banks out of fear of destabilizing the financial system. The critique was fueled a year ago when Holder told lawmakers that some companies had become so large that it was difficult to prosecute them because of the potential impact on the economy.
On Monday, Holder did not backtrack from those comments, saying it would be “irresponsible” not to consider the fact that criminal charges could trigger the loss of a bank’s charter, effectively crippling its business. But he said prosecutors need to work with regulators to hold banks accountable without wrecking their entire business.