By Peter Schroeder - 03/06/13 07:00 PM EST
The Justice Department is required to consider the economic impact of its actions, but Holder's comments should bolster an increasingly vocal group of lawmakers that argue the nation's biggest banks have gotten too large and need to be curbed.
Sens. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyMcConnell blames dysfunction on Dems Four states sue to stop internet transition Senate passes bill to preserve sexual assault kits MORE (R-Iowa) and Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownOvernight Finance: Lawmakers float criminal charges for Wells Fargo chief | Scrutiny on Trump's Cuba dealings | Ryan warns of recession if no tax reform Anti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP Democrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal MORE (D-Ohio) pressed Holder on the issue in a letter sent in February, airing their disappointment that no major criminal charges had been filed against banks or their employees in the wake of the financial crisis. And Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren questions Puerto Rico board's meeting on Wall Street Overnight Finance: Lawmakers float criminal charges for Wells Fargo chief | Scrutiny on Trump's Cuba dealings | Ryan warns of recession if no tax reform Anti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP MORE (D-Mass.) drew headlines when she blasted financial regulators during a separate hearing for failing to bring any major financial institutions to trial since the meltdown.
Grassley pressed Holder again on the issue during testimony Wednesday, at which point Holder said he essentially agreed.
"The concern that you have raised is one that I, frankly, share," he said, adding that ultimately the best deterrent would be if they could bring charges against individuals instead of companies.
However, he also added that all of the bad behavior on Wall Street leading up to the crisis may not necessarily have been criminal and that his criminal team has been "as aggressive as they could be."
Holder touted the Justice Department's efforts on financial fraud, specifically noting the government's civil suit against the credit rating agency Standard & Poor's, in which the government is seeking at least $5 billion in damages. The rater has said the lawsuit is without merit and is challenging it.