The ongoing tension between the Justice Department and the House Oversight Committee saw a new development this week as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California), committee chair and vocal critic of Attorney General Eric Holder, requested the department turn over all of its documents related to its recent securities settlements with JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup.
In a letter released Thursday, Issa demanded on behalf of the committee that DoJ provide all documents and communications regarding either settlement dating back to the start of 2011 as well as any memos "referring or relating to policies governing the decision to conclude pre-suit settlement negotiations."
While a DoJ spokesperson said the department is "confident that the resolutions we have reached are appropriate, fair, and in proportion to the conduct at issue," Issa contends that DoJ's efforts to strike major settlements with banks—including JPMorgan's historic $13 billion agreement last year and Citi's $7 billion accord announced earlier this month—"[stand] in marked contrast to the Department’s litigation strategy in other contexts."
Issa's letter refers to a case in May in which DoJ secured a guilty plea and $2.6 billion in penalties from Credit Suisse over charges the bank aided Americans in evading taxes. That was followed in June by another guilty plea from BNP Paribas SA, which agreed to pay $8.9 billion for violating U.S. economic sanctions in some of its international dealings.
Issa's demand is just the latest in a long string of battles against Holder. In 2012, Issa was one of several Republicans leading a charge to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress for his refusal to hand over documents related to a botched gun-running sting operation.
The chairman's latest move might be received more favorably on both sides of the aisle, however, appeasing both those who say the government is unfairly targeting big banks for punishment and those who might argue that DoJ has been too lenient on accused offenders.