Eric Holder

Last updated

Eric Holder
Eric Holder official portrait.jpg
Official portrait, 2009
82nd United States Attorney General
In office
February 3, 2009 April 27, 2015

On March 6, 2013, Holder testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the size of large financial institutions has made it difficult for the Justice Department to bring criminal charges when they are suspected of crimes, because such charges can threaten the existence of a bank and therefore their interconnectedness may endanger the national or global economy. (See financial contagion). "Some of these institutions have become too large," Holder told the committee, "It has an inhibiting impact on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate." [158]

In a January 29, 2013 letter to Holder, Senators Sherrod Brown and Charles Grassley had criticized this Justice Department policy citing "important questions about the Justice Department's prosecutorial philosophy." [159] After receipt of a DOJ response letter, Brown and Grassley issued a statement saying, "The Justice Department's response is aggressively evasive. It does not answer our questions. We want to know how and why the Justice Department has determined that certain financial institutions are 'too big to jail' and that prosecuting those institutions would damage the financial system." [160] [161]

Prosecution rates against crimes by large financial institutions are at 20-year lows. [162] Holder has also endorsed the notion that prosecutors, when deciding to pursue white-collar crimes, should give special consideration to "collateral consequences" of bringing charges against large corporate institutions, as outlined in a 1999 memorandum by Holder. Nearly a decade later Holder, as head of the Department of Justice, put this into practice and has demonstrated the weight "collateral consequences" has by repeatedly sought and reached deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements and settlements with large financial institutions such as J.P. Morgan Chase, HSBC, Countrywide Mortgage, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and others where the institution pays a fine or penalty but faces no criminal charges and admits no wrongdoing. [163] [164] Whereas in the previous decade the Bush administration's Department of Justice often sought criminal charges against individuals of large institutions regardless of "collateral consequences" such as cases involving Enron, Adelphia Communications Corporation, Tyco International, and others.

In September 2014, he described the department's rationale in a speech at New York University:

Responsibility remains so diffuse, and top executives so insulated," Holder said, "that any misconduct could again be considered more a symptom of the institution's culture than a result of the willful actions of any single individual." [165]

According to a 2016 report prepared by Republican staff of the House Committee on Financial Services, Holder and other Justice Department officials had overruled the recommendation of prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against HSBC for its alleged role in money-laundering, instead settling with the bank for the then-record amount of $1.9 billion. [166]

Resolution proposing articles of impeachment

On November 14, 2013, Representative Pete Olson (R-TX), along with 19 Republicans, introduced a resolution proposing articles of impeachment against Holder. The articles cited Holder for his alleged role in Operation Fast and Furious, refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, failing to prosecute anyone involved in the IRS targeting of groups based on name and political theme, and for allegedly perjuring himself by stating that he had no knowledge of any potential prosecution of members of the media for disclosure of classified material. [167] [168] There were 29 co-sponsors to the bill. The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary on November 14, 2013, but no further action was taken. [169]


Holder announced his resignation on September 25, 2014, citing personal reasons. He remained in office until the Senate confirmed his successor, Loretta Lynch. [170] [171] [172]

Return to private practice

Holder at the 2016 Democratic National Convention Eric Holder at DNC 0434 (27994325123).jpg
Holder at the 2016 Democratic National Convention

In July 2015, Holder rejoined Covington & Burling, the law firm at which he worked before becoming attorney general. The law firm's clients have included many of the large banks Holder declined to prosecute for their alleged role in the financial crisis. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone opined about the move, "I think this is probably the single biggest example of the revolving door that we've ever had." [173] [174]

In early 2016, Holder was hired by the MTN Group, a South Africa-based telecommunications company as a part of its efforts to combat a $3.9 billion fine handed to the MTN Group by the government of Nigeria. [175] Rather than attempt to negotiate with the regulatory body that issued the fine, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Holder worked with the Nigerian Attorney General Abubakar Malami to reach a compromise. While the NCC initially rejected a proposal from Malami for a reduced fine, it later decided to reduce the fine by more than half. The MTN Group paid the reduced amount, which totaled around $1.7 billion. [176]

In October 2016, Holder announced that he would chair the newly incorporated National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group aiming to support Democratic candidates in state races ahead of the redistricting that will follow the 2020 Census. [177]

In February 2017, Uber hired Holder to help lead an investigation into claims of sexual harassment and discrimination made public by Susan Fowler, a former employee. [178] In June, Holder delivered a 13 page document outlining his recommendations for Uber. [179] This led to Uber firing over 20 employees. [180] Emil Michael, who was CEO Travis Kalanick's right-hand man, also left the company. [181] Kalanick himself was forced into taking an indefinite leave of absence, and a week later, under pressure from investors, resigned as the CEO. [182] [183]

During 2018, Holder suggested on several occasions that he might run for the presidency in 2020. In July, he told CNN he thought a presidential candidate needed five qualities—the ability to inspire others, a vision for the job, the ability to meet both the physical and mental strains of the job, and appropriate experience. Holder added that he believed he possessed those five qualities, but noted that his wife would be involved in his decision. [184] In October 2018, Holder was one of multiple individuals targeted by mailed pipe-bombs sent to Democratic lawmakers and officials. [185] On March 4, 2019, Holder announced that he would not seek the White House in 2020 but would continue his work with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee to help elect a Democratic candidate who had the five qualities he thought were necessary. [186] [187]

Personal life

Holder is married to Sharon Malone, an obstetrician. The couple has three children. [188] Malone's sister was Vivian Malone Jones, famous for her part in the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, which led to integration at the University of Alabama. [189] Holder has been involved with various mentoring programs for inner-city youth. He is also an avid basketball fan [190] and the uncle of former NBA All-Star Jeff Malone. [24] Holder and his wife live in Washington, D.C. [191]


In May 2008, while he was still in private practice, Legal Times magazine named Holder as one of the "Greatest Washington Lawyers of the Past 30 Years," describing him as one of the "Visionaries." [192] Also in that year, Holder was named by The National Law Journal as one of "the 50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America." [193] The National Law Journal commended Holder's practice in the areas of civil litigation and white-collar defense, as well as his work as a national co-chair for Obama's campaign. [194]

On May 16, 2010, Holder delivered the commencement address at Boston University, for both the all-university ceremony and the School of Law. In addition, he was presented with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. [195]

On May 22, 2011, Holder delivered the commencement address at the University of Virginia School of Law. Holder encouraged the graduates to emulate Virginia Law alumnus Robert F. Kennedy's legacy of service. [196] On May 19, 2009, Holder was chosen by his alma mater, Columbia College, to be its Class Day Speaker. [197]

In May 2009, Holder visited Barbados and met with government representatives from across the Caribbean. The government renamed the Tamarind Hall municipal building located at Tamarind Hall, Blackmans, St. Joseph after Holder. Now known as the Eric Holder Jr. Municipal Complex [198] - This centre was constructed by Government of Barbados to house a Magistrate's Court, a police station, a branch of the public library, in addition to the St. Joseph district Post Office. The centre was officially opened on May 22, 2009, by the U.S attorney general, Mr. Eric Holder Jr. while on a visit. In June 2009, the Government of Barbados announced that it would begin a project to determine the first 100 Great Barbadians, who would be selected by the public of Barbados. At the announcement of the project it was announced that Holder was the first candidate nominated for the final list. [199]

In 2012, Holder received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement. [200] [201]

In August 2012, the National Urban League named Holder as a recipient of their "Living Legend" award, along with singer Stevie Wonder. [202]

In April 2013, Holder acknowledged having the position of the President's 'wing-man' and being there as the President's 'boy' during a radio interview with Tom Joyner. [203] These awards and recognition are noteworthy because they contradict Holder's own public position that there should be "...a distance between [an Attorney General] and the president." [204]

Holder delivered the commencement address at Harvard Law School in May 2012, [205] the UC Berkeley School of Law in May 2013, [206] and the UCLA School of Law in June 2020.

Holder received an honorary Doctor of Laws from his alma mater, Columbia University, in May 2017. [207]


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Further reading

Legal offices
Preceded by United States Deputy Attorney General
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Attorney General

Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Attorney General
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Cabinet Member Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Cabinet Member
Succeeded byas Former US Cabinet Member