U.S. Rep Darrell Issa, the Vista Republican, has hailed news of the impending resignation of Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department’s criminal justice division. Issa was quoted in The Washington Post as saying the move is “long overdue” and “paves the way for needed new leadership.” Breuer’s part in the “Fast and Furious” gun scandal was a reason.
But media outlets noted that a day before his stepping down was announced, Breuer was featured in a Frontline documentary on PBS called The Untouchables—about how no senior Wall Street executive has faced criminal charges in the 2008 economic meltdown.
Breuer came under fire for exchanges like this (as reported on The News Talkers):
MARTIN SMITH: You gave a speech before the New York Bar Association. And in that speech, you made a reference to losing sleep at night, worrying about what a lawsuit might result in at a large financial institution.
LANNY BREUER: Right.
SMITH: Is that really the job of a prosecutor, to worry about anything other than simply pursuing justice?
BREUER: Well, I think I am pursuing justice. And I think the entire responsibility of the department is to pursue justice. But in any given case, I think I and prosecutors around the country, being responsible, should speak to regulators, should speak to experts, because if I bring a case against institution A, and as a result of bringing that case, there’s some huge economic effect — if it creates a ripple effect so that suddenly, counterparties and other financial institutions or other companies that had nothing to do with this are affected badly — it’s a factor we need to know and understand.
Is Breuer’s leaving a sign that Wall Street prosecutions might take place at last?