Preet Bharara was one of 46 United States Attorneys appointed by President Barack Obama who was asked by the new administration to immediately resign. However, the request came as huge surprise to Mr. Bharara as it came just three months after he met with then president-elect Donald J. Trump, who had asked him to stay on as a United States Attorney. Mr. Bharara said at that time, “I said I would absolutely consider staying on. I agreed to stay on.”
In response to the now Presidents’ request, Mr. Bharara refused to resign. Instead, he announced on Twitter, “I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired.” Referring to the Southern District of New York (SDNY) he continued, “Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life.”
According to the New York Times, for seven plus years, Preet Bharara, “made a name for himself as one of the nation’s most aggressive and outspoken prosecutors of public corruption and Wall Street crime.”
During his time in office, Mr. Bharara “supposedly” prosecuted Democratic and Republican officials; from Sheldon Silver, the former Democratic speaker of New York’s Assembly, and Dean G. Skelos, the former Republican majority leader of the State Senate. His (now former) office is preparing to try a group of former aides and associates of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo regarding bribery and bid-rigging case. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fund-raising is also under investigation to determine if he or other officials exchanged official acts for political donations and favors.
Reports say that under his stewardship, the office was also known for its insider trading investigations, civil rights cases and terrorism prosecutions. Another investigation is in process which focuses on how Fox News structured settlements of claims brought by network employees.
In a recent article by ProPublica, the publication draws a parallel between Robert Morgenthau, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York during the ‘60’s, who though asked to resign in 1996 by former President Richard Nixon, instead stayed in office for another year. Like Mr.Morgenthau, Mr. Bharara leaves the office of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District celebrated for taking on corrupt and powerful politicians and was most diligent in his pursuit of political corruption.
However, according to ProPublica, while Mr. Bharara has been most diligent in his pursuit of political corruption, his treatment of the Wall Street executives involved in the financial meltdown was far less confrontational. In the article, “When It Comes to Wall Street, Preet Bharara Is No Hero”, they make a pretty strong case for just the reverse and question what the New York Times is applauding him for.
They point out that Mr. Bharara was less aggressive by far when it came to confronting Wall Street’s misdeeds. Appointed to the office in 2009, he inherited the fallout of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression; which included a probe against Lehman Brothers.
Apparently Mr. Bharara did not give as much emphasis to investigations arising from the financial meltdown as perhaps he should have. And let’s not forget his boss was former Attorney General Eric Holder which may or may not have been an influencing factor. Justice Department insiders say many of those inquiries “withered not because they were unpromising, but because they had little support”.
Bank Whistleblowers United colleague, William K. Black, writes about Mr. Bharara’s lack of Wall Street prosecutions and specifically describes my experience with the US Attorney and four DOJ offices.
“At all times when he was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (which includes Wall Street) Bharara knew how to drain the swamp. Further, he had the authority, the jurisdiction, the resources, and the testimony from whistleblowers like Richard Bowen (a co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United (BWU)) to drain the Wall Street swamp. Bowen personally contacted Bharara … saying, “I am writing this email to inform you that there is a body of evidence concerning wrongdoing, which the Department of Justice has refused to act on in order to determine whether criminal charges should be pursued.
“Bowen explained that he was a whistleblower about Citigroup’s senior managers and that he was (again) coming forward to aid Bharara to prosecute. Bowen tried repeatedly to interest Bharara in draining the Citigroup swamp. Bharara refused to respond to Bowen’s blowing of the whistle on the massive frauds led by Citigroup’s senior officers.”
Mr. Bharara is being touted as a crusading crime fighter by the Editorial Board of the New York Times. The Times claims that he was a “Prosecutor Who Knew How to Drain a Swamp.” Well, it’s not the first time The Times has gone on record with false news. Despite the evidence of wrong-doing and fraud against the public by the largest banks, there have been no prosecutions of any executives, and many are still in a position of power and still swimming in the swamp of Wall Street which is very far from drained.
As the ProPublica’s author, Jesse Eisinger, detailed in 2014, Bharara’s office brought just one case for misconduct during the financial crisis and that was against a mid-level Credit-Suisse banker, Kareem Serageldin. Mr. Serageldin pled guilty and went to prison.
This was consistent behavior. Draining the swamp, hardly. Another example, Mr. Bharara agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement against JPMorgan Chase, who paid $2.6 billion in fines and restitution, signed a deferred prosecution agreement and walked away from their 22-year involvement with Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
In all fairness, when Mr. Bharara took office as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in 2009, Wall Street was hands off, there were no investigations; no-one wanted to upset the powers on Wall Street. So when Mr. Bharara left office, the swamp is still murky when it comes to Wall Street and the titans who rule it.
William Black, who was a key government prosecutor during the S&L crisis, notes “Bharara also could have taken advantage of the expertise and experience of regulators and prosecutors who worked together to produce over 1,000 felony convictions in “major” cases against financial executives and their co-conspirators in the savings and loan debacle…”
“Bharara knew how to drain the Wall Street swamp. He had the facts, the staff, and the jurisdiction to drain the Wall Street swamp. Bharara refused to do so.”
Let’s give Mr. Bharara credit for what he did and not turn him into a legend. Wall Street still rules and calls the shots.