Before the criminal fraud case involving the French bank Credit Lyonnais was settled for $771 million, negotiations between French officials and U.S. prosecutors often came close to falling apart. The Los Angeles Times reports that Debra Yang, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles who has made corporate fraud one of her top priorities, would not be deterred. Despite efforts by French heavyweights to lobby the White House, State, and Justice departments to drop the prosecution, Yang pushed it forward. When the settlement was announced in December, it was among the largest in a criminal case in U.S. history. In January, Credit Lyonnais, two other corporations, and a corporate officer pleaded guilty to making false statements to banking regulators in the illegal takeover of the insolvent Los Angeles-based insurance company, Executive Life.
The office headed by the diminutive 44-year-old Yang filed 13 corporate fraud cases, the second most in the nation, after the Northern District of Alabama, which filed 16. The L.A. cases targeted 43 corporate or individual defendants, the most in the country. Yang’s aggressive posture – critics call her heavy-handed – plays a role, lawyers say. “The U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles has distinguished itself in the pursuit of white-collar crime,” said Jan Handzlik, former chairman of the American Bar Association’s national white-collar crime committee. “Many defense attorneys consider this to be the golden age of white-collar crime prosecutions.” Says Yang: “I’m very much a patriot. I really enjoy doing what is right.”