FOIA Response on Citigroup Justice Department Referrals: DOJ Draws a Dark Curtain Around Its Actions

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: November 7, 2017

Robert Rubin, Former Treasury Secretary and Citigroup Board Chair

Robert Rubin, Former Treasury Secretary and Citigroup Executive Committee Chair

On March 11, 2016, the National Archives released a trove of documents related to the work of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) and their investigation of the causes of the 2007-2010 financial crisis. As a result of reviewing those documents, Senator Elizabeth Warren sent a September 15, 2016 letter to the Inspector General of the Justice Department and to then FBI Director James Comey seeking to find out why the Justice Department had not prosecuted any of the individuals or corporations that were referred to it by the FCIC.

Senator Warren indicated in her letter to James Comey that her staff had “identified 11 separate FCIC referrals of individuals or corporations to DOJ in cases where the FCIC found ‘serious indications of violation[s]’ of federal securities or other laws consistent with this statutory mandate. Nine specific individuals were implicated in these referrals — yet not one of these nine has gone to prison or been prosecuted for a criminal offense.”

Warren asked Comey to “promptly facilitate the release of any and all materials related to the FBI’s investigations and prosecutorial decisions regarding these referrals.”

It’s been more than a year since Warren sent her letters to the DOJ’s Inspector General and to the FBI – and the sound of silence on this critical matter has been deafening.

Wall Street On Parade decided to file its own Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Justice Department in the matter. To be certain that the Justice Department would not decline the FOIA on the basis that we were seeking too broad a search, we narrowed our inquiry to the three former Citigroup executives whom the FCIC had made referrals to the Justice Department: former Chairman of the Executive Committee of Citigroup, Robert Rubin – who served as the former U.S. Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton; former Citigroup CEO Charles (Chuck) Prince; and former Citigroup CFO Gary Crittenden. The Justice Department responded as follows:

“This is in response to your request for records on Charles Prince, Gary Crittenden, and Robert Rubin. Please be advised that I have decided to neither confirm nor deny the existence of such records pursuant to Exemptions 6 and 7(C) of the FOIA. 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(6), (7)(C). Even to acknowledge the existence of law enforcement records on another individual could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. This is our standard response to such requests and should not be taken to mean that records do, or do not, exist. Accordingly, I cannot confirm nor deny the existence of records responsive to your request.”

Read the full Justice Department response to Wall Street On Parade’s FOIA request here.

Typically, it is true that the Justice Department does not comment on prosecutions that it decides not to bring. But it made a major exception to that standard on July 5, 2016 when then FBI Director James Comey released a detailed statement on the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server in the basement of her home while serving as Secretary of State to transmit highly classified material. Comey said he was “going to include more detail about our process than I ordinarily would, because I think the American people deserve those details in a case of intense public interest.”

What could possibly be of more “intense public interest” than learning about the role played by individuals at the center of the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression. Citigroup was not some minor player in the corruption that collapsed Wall Street. It received the largest taxpayer bailout in U.S. history. The U.S. Treasury infused $45 billion in capital into Citigroup to prevent its total collapse; the government guaranteed over $300 billion of Citigroup’s assets; the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) guaranteed $5.75 billion of its senior unsecured debt and $26 billion of its commercial paper and interbank deposits; the Federal Reserve secretly funneled $2.5 trillion in almost zero-interest loans to units of Citigroup between 2007 and 2010.

We believe we know the answer to why the Justice Department is choosing to remain mum about its investigation of the individuals referred by the FCIC. In our opinion, it’s because the Justice Department commenced no serious investigation of any major Wall Street bank executive. In January 2013, the PBS program Frontline interviewed the then head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer. This was the exchange:

NARRATOR: Frontline spoke to two former high-level Justice Department prosecutors who served in the Criminal Division under Lanny Breuer. In their opinion, Breuer was overly fearful of losing.

MARTIN SMITH: We spoke to a couple of sources from within the Criminal Division, and they reported that when it came to Wall Street, there were no investigations going on. There were no subpoenas, no document reviews, no wiretaps.

LANNY BREUER: Well, I don’t know who you spoke with because we have looked hard at the very types of matters that you’re talking about.

MARTIN SMITH: These sources said that at the weekly indictment approval meetings that there was no case ever mentioned that was even close to indicting Wall Street for financial crimes.

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