Holder: Big banks' size complicates prosecution efforts

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He suggested that prior attempts to bring enforcement against banks may have been stifled by their outsize influence, saying it has an "inhibiting influence ... on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate."

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 GrassleyGOP senator grilled over DeVos vote during town hall Big Pharma must address high drug prices ­ObamaCare fix hinges on Medicaid clash in Senate MORE (R-Iowa) and Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownSanders, not Trump, is the real working-class hero A guide to the committees: Senate House bill would prevent Trump from lifting Russian sanctions 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 WarrenBrazile: DNC staffers got death threats after email hack Sanders and Schumer are right: Ellison for DNC chair Dean: Schumer's endorsement 'kiss of death' for Ellison 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.