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Fed Prosecutors Faulted for Credit-Crunch Inaction

File photo/istock

By Justin Blum
Bloomberg

WASHINGTON — In November 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder vowed before television cameras to prosecute those responsible for the market collapse a year earlier, saying the U.S. would be “relentless” in pursuing corporate criminals.

In the 18 months since, no senior Wall Street executive has been criminally charged, and some lawmakers are questioning whether the U.S. Justice Department has been aggressive enough after declining to bring cases against officials at American International Group Inc. (AIG) and Countrywide Financial Corp.

Prosecutions of three categories of crime that could be linked to the causes of the crisis — corporate, securities and bank fraud — declined last fiscal year by 39 percent from 2003, the period after the accounting scandals at Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc., Justice Department records show.

“You need a massive prosecutorial effort,” said Solomon Wisenberg, a white-collar defense attorney at Barnes & Thornburg LLP in Washington and a former federal prosecutor. “I don’t see evidence that it’s happening. If we were talking baseball, it would be at the AAA level.”

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