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ow Eric Holder's Corporate Law Firm Is Turning Into a 'Shadow Justice Department'
The revolving door between the Department of Justice and a certain corporate law firm is spinning faster than ever. On July 6, former Attorney General Eric Holder returned to his previous employer, Covington & Burling — a firm that's represented the biggest banks on Wall Street, and is internationally known for its white-collar defense practice. A week later, his DOJ chief of staff Margaret Richardson announced that she would be following him there.
Meanwhile, the latest data from the DOJ reveals that criminal prosecutions for white-collar crimes are at a 20-year low. This decline and the rapid circulation of personnel between Covington and the DOJ has raised questions about the Obama administration's handling of the banking industry and the 2008 financial crisis.
Under Obama, the DOJ decided not to pursue criminal charges against most of the executives and financial institutions behind the economic collapse, opting instead to impose hefty fines that were paid out by shareholders, not the employees or executives of the banks. In contrast, some 1,100 individuals faced criminal prosecution during the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, and the heads of several major banks served jail time.
Covington's white-collar defense division, which represents clients accused of corporate, financial, or regulatory crimes, is particularly well stacked with government talent.
"Our team includes former senior SEC officials, a former Secretary of Homeland Security, three former heads of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, former federal judges, numerous former federal prosecutors with extensive criminal trial experience, as well as former senior Treasury Department, State Department, and EU officials," boasts the firm's white-collar defense and investigations web page.
Holder and Richardson have joined five other top DOJ lawyers who left government to work in the lucrative division.
Holder worked at Covington for eight years before Obama tapped him to lead the DOJ in 2009. Plotting his return to the fold became a six-year "project," Covington chairman Timothy Hester told the National Law Journal. The firm even reserved a vacant corner office for Holder's expected return.