The CBS news show 60 Minutes on Sunday examined the lack of prosecution of high-level culprits in the 2008 financial collapse. Correspondent Steve Kroft interviewed Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer for the segment, asking him tough questions.
“In our criminal justice system, we have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to commit a fraud. But when you can’t or when we think we can’t, there’s still many, many important resolutions and options we have. And that’s why there have been civil lawsuits and regulatory action,” Breuer told Kroft.
The CBS correspondent followed up with a question about why the Sarbanes Oxley law hasn’t been used to hold executives accountable, prodding Breuer with a query about whether he “lack[ed] confidence” to bring those cases.
Breuer said, “No one … really has accused this Department of Justice or this division or me of lacking confidence. If you look at the prosecutors all over the country, they are bringing record cases, with respect to all kinds of criminal laws. Sarbanes Oxley is a tool, but it’s only one tool. We’re confident. We follow the facts and the law wherever they take us. And we’re bringing every case that we believe can be made.”
Later, Kroft said: “The perception. I mean, it doesn’t seem like you’re trying. It doesn’t seem like you’re making an effort. That the Justice Department does not have the will to take on these big Wall Street banks.”
Breuer answered, “Steve, I get it. I find the excessive risk taking to be offensive. I find the greed that was manifested by certain people to be very upsetting. But because I may have an emotional reaction and I may personally share the same frustration that American people all over the country are feeling, that in and of itself doesn’t mean we bring a criminal case.” He added that Americans should “stay tuned,” because Justice is still working hard on cases.