Eric Holder: creator of the "Too Big to Jail" bankster

While you contemplate Eric Holder's track record of surveilling, intimidating and indicting journalists, remember that he also invented the Too Big to Jail doctrine, the failed idea that the answer to breathtaking criminal activity by gigantic banks is big fines, not criminal prosecutions.

Holder invented the doctrine while serving in the Clinton Administration, with the Holder Memo, which argued that criminal prosecution of huge banks resulted in too much collateral damage to investors, depositors and borrowers; and that the right way to rein in criminality in the financial sector was to impose giant fines on banks.

This doctrine was enthusiastically adopted during the two GWB presidencies, and when Holder became Obama's attorney general, he put it into overdrive. As Matt Taibbi documents in The Divide, Holder allowed HSBC to buy its way out of criminal charges after it laundered billions for vicious and brutal Mexican narco-gangs, a criminal conspiracy that went all the way to the top of the bank. Other bank scandals where the perps were too big to jail include the LIBOR rigging (where virtually every city, school, hospital, and community center was ripped off through interest-rate rigging that made billions for the perps) and the Lehman Brothers buyout, where Barclays was able to rip off billions from the pension funds, institutions and other depositors whose money Lehman had been gambling with.

The too big to jail fines have been a total failure when it comes to curtailing financial crimes. The banks simple factor the fines into the cost of doing business, and the crime goes on and on. As Taibbi notes, if a bank has committed crimes that entitle the DoJ to destroy it utterly, the DoJ holds all the cards — rather than merely levying a fine on the crooks who abet murderers and fraudsters, the DoJ could insist that the settlement include the bank breaking itself up into separate units, any of which is small enough to shut down and whose entire C-suite can the thrown behind bars if circumstances warrant.

(Image: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder meets with Police Officials and Program Participants on Diversion Initiative, North Charleston, CC-BY-SA)