The biggest banks—JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup—have paid multibillion-dollar fines stemming from mortgage fraud, but no top executives have gone to prison, says the Washington Monthly. Those companies copped to civil charges, but have not faced criminal prosecution. This marks a sharp departure from past banking scandals, such as the savings and loan crisis, where more than 1,000 bankers were convicted by the Justice Department through the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Departing Attorney General Eric Holder back in 1999 as Deputy Attorney General urged prosecutors to take into account “collateral consequences” when pursuing cases against companies, lest they topple and take the economy down with them. University of Virginia law Prof. Brandon Garrett, in a new book, “Too big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations, discusses some of the rationale behind prosecutors' anemic response against the banks, and the deep disconnect with populist anger over the fact that no executives have ended up behind bars. He collects information on the 255 deferred-prosecution and non-prosecution agreements the Justice Department entered into between 2001 and 2012, along with details on more than 2,000 corporate convictions, mostly guilty pleas, over the same period.