Too-big-to-fail banks limit prosecutor options, Holder says

Internal Rules

Judith C. Appelbaum, principal deputy assistant attorney general, defended what she called the department’s “vigorous enforcement against wrongdoing” in a letter to Brown dated Feb. 27. Federal prosecutors must follow internal rules, which include taking into account the economic impact, to assess whether to pursue a criminal case, she said.

The Justice Department remains willing to bring charges against a corporation of any size, she wrote. The Justice Department secured a guilty plea from the Japanese subsidiary of UBS AG in a resolution of allegations that the bank rigged interest rates. A Royal Bank of Scotland Plc subsidiary also pleaded guilty to charges in that bank’s settlement with authorities in the global rate-rigging probe.

Still, Holder said going after individuals remains the best way to halt wrongdoing on Wall Street.

“The greatest deterrent effect is not by the prosecution of any corporation, though that’s important,” he told Grassley. “The greatest deterrent effect is to prosecute the individuals in the corporation who are responsible for those decisions.”

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