Justice News

Attorney General Eric Holder Testifies Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
Washington, DC
United States
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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Chairwoman Mikulski, Ranking Member Hutchison, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee: thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today – and for your continued support of the Justice Department’s critical work. I look forward to discussing the President's Fiscal Year 2013 Budget for the Department – and how these investments would be used to build on our extraordinary record of success.

The President’s budget proposal demonstrates a clear commitment to advancing the Department’s core missions and augmenting our ability to fulfill our most important obligation: protecting the American people. Despite the significant fiscal constraints the federal government has faced in recent years, the 116,000 dedicated employees who serve in Department offices around the world have made significant – and, in many cases, historic – progress in safeguarding our citizens from terrorism, violent crime, financial fraud, and a range of threats that often disproportionately threaten the most vulnerable members of society. We’ve also proven our commitment to acting as sound stewards of precious taxpayer dollars.

As you can see in the most recent budget request, proposed spending increases have been exceeded by proposed cuts. In fact, as a result of numerous steps taken to streamline operations, almost $700 million worth of savings have been developed and reinvested in critical mission areas. And I believe that the Department is perhaps more efficient – and more effective – than ever before.

Our recent achievements underscore this point – especially when you consider our national security efforts. By continuing to work collaboratively alongside U.S. and international partners, we have identified and disrupted numerous alleged terrorist plots – including one by two Iranian nationals to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. We’ve thwarted multiple plots devised by homegrown extremists. And we’ve secured convictions – and robust sentences – against a number of dangerous terrorists.

In October, the Department obtained a guilty plea from Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for his role in the attempted bombing of an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009. Just last month, Abdulmutallab was sentenced to four life terms in prison. In November, we secured the conviction of Viktor Bout, a notorious arms dealer who sold millions of dollars in weapons for use in killing Americans. And in December, Waad Ramadan Alwan pleaded guilty to 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.

The list goes on and on. And, with the sustained and increased 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 key national security efforts – the Department will be able to strengthen our critical surveillance and intelligence-gathering capabilities.

It will also allow us to bring our fight against financial fraud to a new level. On Monday, as many of you know, President Obama issued a proclamation to mark the beginning of this year’s Consumer Fraud Protection Week. And I am proud to note that the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch has established a record of success in defending the interests of American consumers that is worth celebrating – and will be expanded upon.

In 2011 alone, our Consumer Protection Branch attained a 95 percent conviction rate; recovered more than $900 million in criminal and civil fines, restitution, and penalties; and obtained sentences totaling more than 125 years of imprisonment against more than 30 individuals. This represents remarkable – and unprecedented – progress. But it is only the beginning.

In fact, since the start of this Administration, the Justice Department has signaled an unwavering commitment to combating and preventing a wide range of financial and health-care fraud crimes – and we’ve taken bold steps to address the causes and consequences of the recent economic crisis. Through the efforts of the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force – which was launched in 2009, and which I am proud to chair – charges have been brought against numerous CEOs, CFOS, corporate owners, board members, presidents, general counsels, and other executives of Wall Street firms, hedge funds, and banks engaged in fraudulent activities. In recent months, we’ve obtained prison sentences of up to 60 years in a variety of fraud cases – including multimillion-dollar Ponzi schemes and the largest hedge-fund insider-trading case in U.S. history. Just this week, we secured a conviction against the former Board of Directors Chairman for an international bank for orchestrating a $7 billion investment fraud scheme. And the Task Force has established two new Working Groups – the Consumer Protection Working Group, which will enhance civil and criminal enforcement of consumer fraud; and the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, which will bring federal and state partners together to investigate and prosecute abuses in our housing markets. Both will help to amplify existing efforts, and to foster cooperation and collaboration in the Department’s response to these problems.

Just a few weeks ago, a similar collaborative approach led the Departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development, other agencies, and 49 state attorneys general to achieve a landmark $25 billion settlement with the nation’s top five mortgage servicers – the largest joint federal-state settlement in our nation’s history. Although this will not – on its own – cure all that ails our housing market, this agreement builds on the record fair-lending settlement obtained by the Civil Rights Division’s Fair Lending Unit last year – and will provide substantial relief to homeowners. It also provides a blueprint for future collaboration – across levels of government, state borders, and party lines.

But there is perhaps no better illustration of our recent progress than the Department’s groundbreaking 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, by utilizing authorities provided under the False Claims Act and other essential statutes – we were able to recover nearly $4.1 billion in funds that were stolen or taken improperly from federal health-care programs – the highest amount ever recovered in a single year.

Over the same period, 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. And, for every dollar we’ve spent combating health-care fraud, we’ve returned an average of seven dollars to the U.S. Treasury, the Medicare Trust Fund, and others.

These numbers are stunning. But my colleagues and I recognize that we cannot yet be satisfied – and that this is no time to become complacent. That’s why, in addition to helping us build on this record of success, the President’s budget request also would bolster our fight against drug trafficking, international crime networks, gangs, and cyber criminals; increase efforts to protect the law enforcement officers who keep us safe; and expand upon the work being done by the Civil Rights Division to guarantee that the rights of all Americans are protected – in border areas, workplaces, housing markets, and voting booths.

I am committed to building on these, and our many other, achievements. And I know you understand that, in this time of uncommon threats and complex challenges, we simply cannot afford to “cut back” on the amount and quality of justice that we are obliged to deliver. The Department must remain vigilant in protecting this nation and enforcing the law – and these efforts must be appropriately and adequately funded.

I look forward to continuing to work with the members of this Subcommittee – and your colleagues throughout the Congress – to accomplish this. And I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Topic: 
Consumer Protection