Lanny Breuer Frontline
Lanny Breuer announced today that he will step down from his position at the Department of Justice. Those who saw the Frontline documentary last night might not be too surprised at this news, since the documentary does such a powerful job of showing Breuer’s soft efforts in prosecuting fraud on Wall Street after the financial crisis.
Person after person in the documentary says that there are certainly criminal cases. But Breuer says that “too big to fail” is a factor in deciding not to prosecute a megabank. Specifically he said, “if I bring a case against institution A, and as a result of bringing that case there’s some huge economic effect… it’s a factor we need to know and understand.”
This isn’t the first or the only time Breuer has made this argument. Last September, in a speech given to the New York City Bar Association, he said,
I personally feel that it’s my duty to consider whether individual employees with no responsibility for, or knowledge of, misconduct committed by others in the same company are going to lose their livelihood if we indict the corporation. In large multi-national companies, the jobs of tens of thousands of employees can be at stake.
It sounds innocent enough, right? (“It’s my duty to consider…”)
Here’s the problem, though: if we can’t prosecute people who commit crimes at international firms because we’re worried about the jobs of innocent employees—or if this worry is even a factor in the prosecution—then we’ve got a separate set of justice for people who belong to multinational firms and people who don’t. It means that people in megabanks are less likely to be prosecuted for crime. And that isn’t justice.
One way to fight for justice is to only support financial institutions that aren’t immune from criminal prosecutions (i.e. local lenders). This way we can work towards a system where “too big to fail” firms no longer exist and where they’re no longer a factor in our justice system.