The United States Justice Department is pursuing criminal investigations of financial institutions that could result in action in the coming weeks and months, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a video, adding that no company was “too big to jail.”
The video, that was posted on Monday by the Justice Department, on their website, showed how federal prosecutors forced two banks, ENP Paribas SA and Credit Suisse AG, to plead guilty to criminal charges to resolve separate investigations, according to sources close to the probe.
Attorney General Holder said he is personally monitoring the ongoing investigations into financial institutions and is “resolved to seeing them through.”
“I intend to reaffirm the principle that no individual or entity that does harm to our economy is ever above the law,” Holder said in the video. “There is no such thing as ‘too big for jail.'”
French Bank BNP Paribas faces fines from U.S. authorities in the amount of $1.1 billion or more, over allegations that it violated U.S. sanctions against Iran and other countries. On Friday, the Swiss finance minister met with Holder to discuss a probe by the United States into Swiss banks that allegedly helped Americans elude U.S. taxes, which includes Credit Suisse.
In the video, Holder said prosecutors are working closely with regulators to address the issues before taking action. “Rather than wall off banks from prosecution, the potential for such severe consequences simply means that federal prosecutors conducting these investigations must go the extra mile to coordinate closely with the regulators that oversee these institutions’ day-to-day operation, this cooperation will prove key in the coming weeks and months as the Justice Department continues to pursue several important investigations, he said.
Coming under fire, the Justice Department has brought few marquee cases against financial institutions and their executives after the 2007-2009 financial crises.
Attorney Holder told a U.S. Senate committee in March 2013, that it can “become difficult” to prosecute major financial institutions that have been accused of wrongdoing because they are so large that a criminal charge could pose a threat to the economy. Since then, Holder has retracted his comments.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers have said, decisions on how to resolve criminal probes of corporate misconduct usually revolve around how bad and pervasive the conduct was, and how much the company did to fix the problems once uncovered.
The banks lawyers have expressed concern not only about regulatory fallout of a criminal conviction, but also about the how counterparties or clients will react.
Defense lawyers said it would be hard to predict whether some clients, including public pension funds, might choose not to do business with a convicted felon, and whether star employees might then leave.
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