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Attorney General Eric Holder Testifies Before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
Washington, D.C. ~ Tuesday, February 28, 2012

As prepared for delivery

 

Chairman Wolf, Ranking Member Fattah, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee: Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today – and for your ongoing support of the Justice Department’s critical work.   I look forward to providing an update on our recent progress and future plans – and, specifically, to discussing how the President’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 will enable the Department to more effectively fulfill its core missions and build on its extraordinary record of achievement.

 

The President’s budget demonstrates a strong commitment to the Justice Department’s work and ensures that we have the resources necessary to meet our essential responsibilities. Of course no responsibility is more important than our obligation to protect the American people  from terrorism, violent crime, financial fraud and a range of threats that put our national security and economic stability at risk.

 

In each of these areas – and despite the unprecedented demands and fiscal constraints that we’ve confronted in recent years – the Department has made remarkable – and, in many cases, historic – progress.   We’ve also proven our commitment – and ability – to act as sound stewards of precious tax payer dollars.   For example, in response to my call to identify savings across the Department, almost $700 million worth savings have been developed – funds that are being reinvested in critical mission areas.   I also want to note that, in the Department’s FY 2013 Budget of $27.1 billion, proposed spending increases have been exceeded by proposed cuts.

 

Since I last appeared before this Subcommittee, the Department has achieved several milestones – perhaps most notably in our national security efforts.   For example, last May a grand jury indicted Waad Ramadan Alwan on 23 charges, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals abroad; attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda in Iraq; and conspiracy to transfer, possess, and export explosive devices against U.S. troops in Iraq.   In December, Alwan pleaded guilty to all 23 charges.

 

In October, the Department obtained a conviction against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for his role in the attempted bombing of an airplane full of holiday travelers on Christmas Day in 2009.   Earlier this month, he was sentenced to four life terms in prison.   By working closely with our U.S. and international partners, we’ve also thwarted multiple terrorist plots – including one by two Iranian nationals to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, and several others hatched by homegrown violent extremists.   We also secured the conviction of notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout for his efforts to sell millions of dollars in weapons for use in killing Americans.  

 

These are just a few of many examples.   And with the sustained and additional investments included in the President’s Budget – for the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, the Joint Terrorism Task Forces, the Render Safe Program, and other national security efforts – I am confident that the Department can maintain and strengthen our intelligence-gathering and surveillance capabilities.

 

I’m also confident that, with the targeted investments included in the most recent budget request, we can bring our fight against financial fraud to a new level.   Over the last three years, the Justice Department – and a host of our federal, state, and local partners – have come together in an unprecedented national effort to combat and prevent a wide range of financial-fraud crimes.   We are holding accountable those who have violated our laws and abused the public trust.

 

Through the work of our United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Justice Department’s Civil and Criminal Divisions – we are making meaningful, measurable progress in this fight to ensure stability, accountability, and – above all – justice.  

 

Through collaboration made possible by the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, launched by President Obama in 2009, we have taken bold steps to address the causes and consequences of our economic crisis.   I am honored to chair this initiative.   The work of the Task Force has resulted in charges against CEOs, CFOs, corporate owners, board members, presidents, general counsels, and other executives of Wall Street firms, hedge funds, and banks involved in financial-fraud activities.

 

In just the last six months, the Justice Department has achieved prison sentences of up to 60 years in a variety of fraud cases.   We obtained a conviction – and record prison sentence – in the largest hedge-fund insider-trading case in U.S. history.   And we’ve secured lengthy prison terms for the architects of multimillion-dollar Ponzi schemes involving hundreds of investors.

 

In addition to advancing these and other successful prosecutions, the Task Force has helped us to identify and focus on priority areas.   For example, in recent weeks, it has given rise to two important working groups: the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, which brings together a variety of partners in order to marshal and strengthen current state and federal efforts to investigate and prosecute abuses in the residential mortgage-backed securities market; and the Consumer Protection Working Group, which will enhance civil and criminal enforcement of consumer fraud – as well as our anti-fraud public education efforts.  

 

We’ve taken other steps to assist struggling consumers – and, specifically, struggling homeowners.   Just a few weeks ago, the Departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development, other agencies, and 49 state attorneys general achieved a landmark $25 billion agreement with the nation’s top five mortgage servicers.   This marked the largest joint federal-state settlement in our nation’s history. Of course, this settlement will not – by itself – cure all that ails our housing market.   But – combined with other measures – it is a step in the right direction toward the housing recovery that our nation so badly needs.  

 

In just the last two fiscal years, we’ve indicted more than 2,100 individuals for mortgage-fraud related crimes.   And, last year, the Department’s Civil Rights Division – through its new Fair Lending Unit – settled or filed a record number of cases – including a $335 million settlement, the largest fair lending settlement in history – to hold financial institutions accountable for discriminatory practices directed at African and Hispanic Americans.

 

But there is perhaps no better illustration of the effectiveness of our anti-fraud efforts than our recent work to combat health-care fraud.   Over the last fiscal year alone – in cooperation with the Department of Health and Human Services and other partners, and by utilizing authorities provided under the False Claims Act and other critical statutes – we were able to recover nearly $4.1 billion in funds that were stolen or taken improperly from federal health-care programs.   This represents the highest amount ever recovered in a single year.

 

At the same time, we opened more than 1,100 new criminal health-care fraud investigations, secured more than 700 convictions, and initiated nearly 1,000 new civil health-care fraud investigations.   In fact, over the last three years, for every dollar we spent combating health-care fraud, we’ve been able to return an average of seven dollars to the U.S. Treasury, the Medicare Trust Fund, and others.

 

The President’s proposed budget also would bolster our fight against international crime networks, drug cartels, gangs, and cyber criminals; and enhance efforts to identify additional ways to protect the most vulnerable members of society, as well as the law enforcement officers who keep us safe.   It also would expand on the critical work being done by our Civil Rights Division to ensure that the rights of all American are protected – in border areas, workplaces, housing markets, and voting booths.

 

I am proud of these – and our many other – achievements.   And I am committed to building on them.   I know you understand that, in this time of great challenge and consequence, we simply cannot afford to “cut back” on the extent or quality of justice that we are obliged to deliver.   The Department is responsible for protecting this nation and enforcing the law – and these efforts must be appropriately and adequately funded.   I look forward to continuing to work with this Subcommittee and with Congress to accomplish this.   And, now, I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

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