Eric Holder has gone back to work for his old firm, the white-collar defense heavyweight Covington & Burling.
The former attorney general decided against going for a judgeship, saying he's not ready for the ivory tower yet. "I want to be a player," he told the National Law Journal, one would have to say ominously.
Holder will reassume his lucrative partnership (he made $2.5 million the last year he worked there) and take his seat in an office that reportedly – this is no joke – was kept empty for him in his absence. The office thing might have been improper, but at this point, who cares? More at issue is the extraordinary run Holder just completed as one of history's great double agents.
For six years, while brilliantly disguised as the attorney general of the United States, he was actually working deep undercover, DiCaprio in The Departed-style, as the best defense lawyer Wall Street ever had. Holder denied there was anything weird about returning to one of Wall Street's favorite defense firms after six years of letting one banker after another skate on monstrous cases of fraud, tax evasion, market manipulation, money laundering, bribery and other offenses.
"Just because I'm at Covington doesn't mean I will abandon the public interest work," he told CNN. He added to the National Law Review that a big part of the reason he was going back to private practice was because he wanted to give back to the community. "The firm's emphasis on pro bono work and being engaged in the civic life of this country is consistent with my worldview that lawyers need to be socially active," he said. Right. He's going back to Covington & Burling because of the firm's emphasis on pro bono work.
Here's a man who just spent six years handing out soft-touch settlements to practically every Too Big to Fail bank in the world. Now he returns to a firm that represents many of those same companies: Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup, to name a few. Collectively, the decisions he made while in office saved those firms a sum that is impossible to calculate with exactitude.
But even going by the massive rises in share price observed after he handed out these deals, his service was certainly worth many billions of dollars to Wall Street. Now he will presumably collect assloads of money from those very same bankers. It's one of the biggest quid pro quo deals in the history of government service.
Congressman Billy Tauzin once took a $2 million-a-year job lobbying for the pharmaceutical industry just a few weeks after helping to pass the revolting Prescription Drug Benefit Bill, but what Holder just did makes Tauzin look like a guy who once took a couple of Redskins tickets. In this light, telling reporters that you're going back to Covington & Burling to be "engaged in the civic life of this country" seems like a joke for us all to suck on, like announcing that he's going back to get a doctorate at the University of Blow Me.
Holder doesn't look it, but he was a revolutionary. He institutionalized a radical dualistic approach to criminal justice, essentially creating a system of indulgences wherein the world's richest companies paid cash for their sins and escaped the sterner punishments the law dictated.