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As Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Face Criminal Probes, Barr Fires Top Prosecutor; Tries to Replace Him with Banks’ Former Lawyer, Jay Clayton

Courtesy of Pam Martens

SEC Chair Jay Clayton

Shortly after 9 p.m. last evening, the U.S. Attorney General, William Barr, stunned prosecutors in the Southern District of New York with the announcement that their boss, Geoffrey Berman, was stepping down as U.S. Attorney in that District and would be replaced with the sitting Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton, who lacks even a shred of criminal prosecution experience. What Clayton does have is a lot of experience representing Wall Street’s largest banks, like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, both of whom are currently under intense criminal investigations by the Justice Department. Clayton was a former partner at Wall Street’s go-to law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, which is currently representing Goldman in the criminal case and representing JPMorgan in various matters.

Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York

Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York

The breaking news last night went downhill from there. Several hours after Barr’s announcement, Berman announced that he had not resigned from his job and had no intention of leaving his post until his replacement had been confirmed by the U.S. Senate – which could take months. There is also no assurance that Clayton would actually be confirmed, since some Republicans and Democrats believe that Clayton has been a lapdog for Wall Street in his current post.

Even more problematic, Clayton’s family has ties to an opaque company called WMB Holdings, described by David Dayen in The Nation magazine like this:

“This company and its affiliated partners (Delaware Trust Co and CSC) are conduits for creating shell corporations and other sketchy vehicles used in tax evasion and money laundering. Public Citizen found apparent links between these companies and Mossack Fonseca, the notorious Panamanian law firm at the center of the Panama Papers scandal.”

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