Breuer said in the interview that "I didn't know about the inappropriate tactics. I had no operational role whatsoever. I didn't even look at the wiretaps. So, that's clear." Breuer said the department's internal watchdog "exonerated" him. (The report said Breuer should have earlier disclosed his knowledge of a similar gun program, which began under a previous administration. Breuer has publicly acknowledged his regret.)
The dispute over Fast and Furious will continue after Breuer leaves. Issa's committee sued DOJ in Washington's federal trial court in August to try to squeeze information from the department; the suit seeks enforcement a congressional subpoena. Lawyers for both sides said on Jan. 29 that negotiations "are progressing sufficiently such that the parties believe that further talks may be fruitful." A judge this week scheduled a hearing for April in Washington.
Breuer insisted that the Criminal Division has been aggressive in the fight against financial fraud. He heralded the successful trial prosecutions of R. Allen Stanford and Lee Farkas as examples of big-name defendants going to prison.
Stanford was sentenced last June to 110 years in prison for his role in one of the country's largest investment fraud schemesone in which $7 billion was bilked. A federal trial judge in Alexandria, Va., in June 2011 sentenced Farkas, the former chairman and owner of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker, to a 30-year prison term for a multibillion-dollar fraud scheme that contributed to the collapse of Colonial Bank.
In the face of criticism over the lack of cases brought against Wall Street executives, Breuer has argued that prosecutors have a duty not to bring cases that can't be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. That's the argument he's made publicly. He repeated on the Frontline piece titled "The Untouchables."
"These are hard cases," Breuer said in the interview with Daily Report affiliate The National Law Journal. "Never oncenot once in four yearshave prosecutors come to me endorsing an indictment in one of those cases and I would have said, 'No.' Obviously, those cases have proven to be difficult."
On the global front, Breuer trumpeted the ongoing pursuit of big banks over allegations concerning the manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor. Criminal deals with two financial institutionsBarclays Bank and UBS AGincluded $660 million in penalties.
Enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the anti-bribery law that dates to 1977, reached new levels in recent years as prosecutors ramped up cases against individuals and secured some of the largest-ever deals with corporations. In November, Breuer was a co-signer, with SEC enforcement director Robert Khuzami, of a much-anticipated guide book addressing the scope of FCPA enforcement. (The SEC announced earlier this month that Khuzami is leaving the agency.)
"I really feel that in the area of corruption, we have changed the dialogue in a substantial way," Breuer said in the interview. "It's been our division at the forefront of that. I'm very proud of that." He added: "By any measure the enforcement of the FCPA and our effort in fighting corruption domestically and internationally has been pretty extraordinary."
Breuer took over the leadership of the Criminal Division at a time when one of the division's unitsthe Public Integrity Sectionwas under intense criticism for the botched prosecution against the late Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.