An effective way to burnish your legacy as a public servant to is to rebut your critics before you’ve even left office. Eric Holder seems to be trying to do just that: negotiating multi-billion dollar bank settlements at a rapid pace, and promising tough action in interest rate and currency manipulation cases.
This, Holder seems to hope, will counter the standard argument that his inability to bring a single criminal case against an executive in connection to the financial crisis is, most charitably, hard to fathom.
But Holder’s legacy of failure goes even deeper than that: What’s more bizarre is his additional failure to adequately prosecute ubiquitous, run-of-the-mill mortgage fraud. Holder failed to land a single big charge against a high-level executive, but he also failed to strike back at the many smaller-bore prosecution opportunities the housing crisis left at his feet.
The Justice Department’s own audit of Holder-era mortgage investigations and prosecutions, released in March, is damning. Outwardly, the Justice Department declared mortgage fraud to be important. But, the report found, the department “did not uniformly ensure that mortgage fraud was prioritized at a level commensurate with its public statements.”
ecord-keeping on mortgage cases was so poor that the “Department of Justice could not provide readily verifiable data related to its criminal and civil enforcement efforts.” FBI data that the auditors could make sense of showed that mortgage-fraud cases actually fell each year after the crisis. In 2009, the department opened 1,771 cases. In 2010, the number was 1,174. In 2011, it had fallen to 599.