WASHINGTON — Atty. Gen.
"I think people just need to be a little patient," Holder said Friday in a television interview. "I know it's been a while. But we have other things that are in the pipeline."
The Justice Department has been criticized for not filing more cases against Wall Street firms and executives for activities leading up to the subprime housing market crash and the financial crisis.
Holder has taken heat for telling a Senate hearing last year that some financial institutions were "so large that it becomes difficult to prosecute them" because criminal charges could hurt the U.S. and even the world economies.
Since then, Holder has tried to emphasize that the Justice Department is not intimidated by the size of a financial institution and would bring any charges that it believed it could prove.
"There are no institutions that are too big to indict," Holder said in the interview on
"There are no individuals who are in such high-level positions that they cannot be indicted, criminally investigated," he said. "And we have brought charges against thousands of people" in the nearly five years he has been in office.
Critics still don't think he'll do much.
Dennis Kelleher, president of public interest group Better Markets Inc., doubted that the Justice Department would get tougher on Wall Street after what he called "five years of inexcusable failure" to bring any criminal cases against large banks or top financial industry executives.
Holder, though, said some of the cases filed have involved large financial institutions, such as
In November, JPMorgan agreed to pay $13 billion to settle Justice Department allegations the bank knowingly sold shoddy mortgage-backed securities during the subprime housing bubble. It was the largest settlement payment ever by a single U.S. company.
Holder stressed Friday that the settlement did not resolve a criminal investigation led by Benjamin Wagner, the U.S. attorney in Sacramento. That investigation "could result in charges against either the institution or individuals … who were involved in those activities," Holder said.
The Justice Department is aggressive and looking for cases it could bring to trial rather than settle, he said. But prosecutors will file charges only in cases that they believe they can prove.
"To the extent that we have the ability to bring cases against individuals or institutions, criminal charges, we will bring them," Holder said. "But we have certain responsibilities to only bring cases that we think we have an ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt."
Most of the charges Holder touted have been against "small-time individuals and firms," said Kelleher, whose group supports tougher financial regulations.
"The time for empty promises has passed," he said. "The Justice Department needs to focus on prosecutions, not public relations."