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Holder: Wall Street offenders not 'out of the woods'

Associated Press

The extent to which Wall Street negligence, mismanagement, and corruption crashed the global economy in 2008 is well documented. But the number of financial industry insiders responsible for the international calamity who ended up behind bars remains the same: zero.

When asked about this, Obama administration officials tend to rely on a relatively persuasive argument: Wall Street's recklessness was not actually illegal, which is why it was necessary for Democrats to approve sweeping new financial-industry reforms in 2010.

But this week, one Obama administration official addressed the same topic, and said something slightly different.

Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday put Wall Street on notice with a vague threat, saying that the Justice Department may be gearing up for civil or criminal prosecutions against those responsible for the 2008 financial meltdown.

"My message is, anybody who's inflicted damage on our financial markets should not be of the belief that they are out of the woods because of the passage of time," Holder said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Holder didn't expound on the nature of the charges or whom the DOJ might have in its crosshairs.

Though the Attorney General did not get into specifics, Alan Pyke added that the DOJ's Criminal Division "is poised to get a new chief prosecutor, Leslie Caldwell, six months after the departure of longtime Wall Street defender Lanny Breuer.... Caldwell headed the government's Enron Task Force from 2002 to 2004 and was a prosecutor specializing in white collar crime prior to that."

The clock is ticking -- the misdeeds occurred in 2008 and the statute of limitations in this area is five years.