In a video message posted on the Justice Department's Web site, Holder said that "when laws indeed appear to have been broken, and the evidence supports the allegations, a company's size will never be a shield from prosecution or penalty." The Justice Department has been facing criticism that federal prosecutors have failed to bring criminal charges against Wall Street banks out of fear of destabilizing the financial system. The critique was fueled a year ago when Holder told lawmakers that some companies had become so large that it was difficult to prosecute them because of the potential impact on the economy. On Monday, Holder did not backtrack from those earlier comments, saying it would be "irresponsible" not to consider the fact that criminal charges could trigger the loss of a bank's charter, effectively crippling its business. But he said the potential for such an outcome means prosecutors need to work with regulators to hold banks accountable without wrecking their entire business.
Columbia Law School Professor John Coffee ... predicted Holder's comments about criminal charges could trigger broader bank industry reaction. Referring generally to financial wrongdoing, Coffee said "maybe they'll start saying it's not just the cost of doing business anymore." But Shulman Rogers attorney Jacob Frenkel warned that Holder's comments could have "a destructive effect rather than a deterrent effect." "I have talked to general counsels who have questioned why they want to remain a corporation domiciled in the United States in such a regulatory-unfriendly environment," said Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor and Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer. "There are long-term ramifications to such messages."