More than 300,000 people are calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to change his position on policing big banks.
An online petition asking the Obama Administration to take “immediate steps to break up the big banks and prosecute the criminals who used them to destroy our economy,” has garnered more than 140,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon. The petition on Signon.org comes shortly after Holder admitted that some banks are just too big to prosecute for their crimes.
In addition, hundreds of thousands have signed petitions from other organizations making similar demands to the Signon.org petition, according to a press release from the website. The activists plan to deliver the petitions to the Department of Justice offices Tuesday.
“I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy,” he said during Senate testimony last week. “And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.”
Holder and his team have been criticized in the past for failing to hold Wall Street banks accountable for their actions during the financial crisis and other scandals. No financial executives have gone to jail for their role in the financial crisis and many of the enforcement actions resulting from the meltdown were settlements that allowed banks to not admit or deny wrongdoing.
After Holder decided not to prosecute Goldman Sachs for allegations related to the financial crisis, Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi accused our nation’s top law enforcement official of having “no balls.” Holder also faced intense -- albeit less colorful -- criticism after Justice Department officials decided not to pursue criminal charges against HSBC, which admitted to laundering money for countries like Iran, Libya and others, according to CNN. Instead, the bank agreed to pay $1.92 billion to settle the claims.
Shortly after Holder’s most recent statements indicating banks are too big to jail, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) urged lawmakers to break up banks that have become so large they have the ability to bring down the economy if they collapse.
“It has been almost five years since the financial crisis, but the big banks are still too big to fail," Warren said in a statement in response to Holder’s testimony. "That means they are subsidized by about $83 billion a year by American taxpayers and are still not being held fully accountable for breaking the law.”
Lawmakers have taken steps to address the too-big-to-fail problem, but they haven’t made much progress. The Dodd-Frank financial reform law passed in 2010, included provisions to curb the risks inherent in giant banks. But the rules have yet to be finalized.
UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect an increase in the number of signatures to the petitions.