The prominent U.S. attorney fired by Donald Trump this weekend has been justly acclaimed for his pursuit of political corruption. But his treatment of the Wall Street executives involved in the financial meltdown was far less confrontational, reports ProPublica.
The 48-year old Bharara leaves the office of US Attorney for the Southern District celebrated for taking on corrupt and powerful politicians. Bharara prosecuted two of the infamous “three men in a room” who ran New York state: Sheldon Silver, the Democratic speaker of the assembly and Dean Skelos, the Republican Senate majority leader.
He won convictions of a startling array of local politicians, carrying on the work of the Moreland Commission, an ethics inquiry created and then dismissed by New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
But the record shows that Bharara was much less aggressive when it came to confronting Wall Street’s misdeeds.
President Obama appointed Bharara in 2009, amid the wreckage of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. He inherited ongoing investigations into the collapse, including a probe against Lehman Brothers.
Bharara and senior officials in Washington argue that there were no criminal cases to file after the 2008 crisis. But the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan did pursue significant civil cases against the banks for their mortgage activities, cases that had to prove misconduct by the “preponderance of the evidence.” And DOJ did win guilty pleas from the banks themselves, an indication that prosecutors might have been able to charge individuals for their part in crimes their institutions had acknowledged. Academics who studied those years, including Columbia’s Tomasz Piskorski and James Witkin and Chicago’s Amit Seru found widespread patterns of fraud in the mortgage business.