To The Editor:
I find deeply tenuous Hunter Main’s argument (“With Race, Holder’s Weak Action,” The Hoya, Sept. 30, A3) that Attorney General Eric Holder’s racial legacy is murky due to his failure to prosecute high-level financial executives responsible for excesses of the 2008 recession. While Main accurately explains how blacks are systematically disempowered by the economic system and especially by illicit practices rampant in the recent financial crisis, he fails to convince me that Holder’s reluctance to prosecute displays cowardice in the national conversation on race.
In the first place, Holder’s jurisdiction and purview as attorney general is mainly legal: For him to take specific action on economic disparities in race would be highly irregular, even improper, unless race were a specific discriminatory practice in those financial crimes. Secondly, even if this were not the case, there is no evidence that the lack of prosecutions was in any way related to racial concerns. Rather, there are complicated factors why the Justice Department has not successfully pursued high-level executives, but the inaction is largely due to a lack of clear evidence or demonstrable culpability.
Nonetheless, numerous large corporations have been held responsible in civil cases amounting in the billions of dollars: Just last month, Holder’s Justice Department settled with Bank of America in excess of $16 billion for financial fraud preceding the recession. These cases — rather than a glitzy, difficult prosecution of a notable CEO — will deter hurtful financial practices; although, even at best, such victories will not address the underlying economic disparities. More can be done to empower blacks and minorities in the financial sector, but these goals are better advanced by the Secretary of the Treasury than the attorney general. The attorney general’s influence on economic disparities is at best slight and indirect: This by no means should reflect poorly on Holder’s racial advocacy.