Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer has failed at prosecuting financial crime, said Eliot Spitzer, former governor and attorney general of New York.
“Lanny Breuer, who is the assistant in charge of the Criminal Division — horrendous,” Spitzer said on Current TV yesterday, a liberal cable channel where he hosts a talk show. “Should be gone tomorrow. The decision’s he’s made over and over — simply anathema to the appropriate execution of the law of this United States of America. I am outraged by these decisions.”
Spitzer, the former New York governor who made his name prosecuting Wall Street crime when he was the state’s attorney general, made his comments on The Young Turks, a Current TV show hosted by Cenk Uygur.
On Tuesday, Breuer announced the Justice Department’s $1.92 billion settlement with HSBC, settling charges the British banking giant laundered money from Mexican drug cartels and violated U.S. sanctions by processing transactions for Iran, Libya, Sudan and other countries.
“Talk about another cave, HSBC — little tiny slap on the wrist,” Spitzer said. “‘Go give money to drug lords’ — that’s what the banks are being told over and over. Shameful, absolutely outrageous what [Attorney General] Eric Holder has done here. I can’t believe it.”
He added: “Eric Holder: Failure. That’s the verdict.”
Spitzer’s comments were made in a preview segment for his own Current TV show, Viewpoint. On that show, Spitzer interviewed Rolling Stone contributing editor Matt Taibbi about his recent blog post titled, “Outrageous HSBC Settlement Proves the Drug War is a Joke.”
Taibbi — who once famously described Goldman Sachs as a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money” — was equally colorful in discussing the deferred prosecution agreement that allowed HSBC to avoid criminal charges.
“The decision to not prosecute in this instance belies everything that the government has ever done with regard to drug prosecutions everywhere,” Taibbi said.
“When you think about the way they behave toward ordinary people who get caught up in drug cases, where they seize all your property and they use absolutely the maximum sentences they can possibly avail themselves of, and in this case they catch a bank that launders billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels … for years on end, and they can’t find something to charge these people with?”
Spitzer added, “All they do is write a check and all their grotesque criminal conduct is wiped away.”
Spitzer is the latest to criticize the HSBC settlement. Yesterday Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) released a letter he sent to Holder demanding to know why no individuals were indicted in the case, saying the department effectively gave the bank a “get-out-of-jail-free card” with the deal. The New York Times editorial board said it was a “dark day for the rule of law.”
Breuer on Tuesday called the record-setting settlement a “very just, very real and very powerful result.”