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Prosecution As Payback

Among the worst abuses of prosecutorial authority is to base a decision to prosecute on an unrelated grudge against the defendant.  Standard and Poors claims the U.S. Department of Justice has done exactly that, according to this editorial in the WSJ.

It's not a smoking gun. But Standard & Poor's claims in a new court filing that it has documents showing that government lawyers who have targeted the firm over its flawed ratings on mortgage bonds also had "intense interest in and engagement regarding S&P's downgrade of the United States."
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Justice says there was no connection between the downgrade and its decision to charge S&P. But in a Tuesday federal court filing in the Central District of California, S&P says it has obtained internal Justice documents showing "that the two topics were often linked."

The documents are under a protective order and thus not public. But it's safe to assume S&P would want to stick to the facts because federal Judge David Carter can see the documents too. If S&P is right, then Justice will have to explain why lawyers tasked with investigating pre-crisis mortgage bonds were so keenly interested in a downgrade of government debt that took place years after the mortgage bond ratings. Do prosecutors investigate every time someone expresses a skeptical view on Treasury bonds?

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