The Chickensh** Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives, by Jesse Eisinger (Simon & Schuster, 400 pp., $28)
Perhaps no recent occurrence stirred leftist-populist angst as much as the lack of any criminal prosecutions in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Many analysts believe that a few sacrificial lambs would have pacified angry Americans and helped to stave off public discontent. It’s a plausible-sounding thesis, and Jesse Eisinger’s new book seeks to explain where the blame lies for the lack of what he and many others believe would have been worthy prosecutions.
The phrase “chickensh** club” comes from a sort of inaugural speech that James Comey (yes, that James Comey) gave in 2002 upon his arrival as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Comey was calling out prosecutors who have never lost a trial as a “chickensh** club” of those who are unwilling to take on risky cases; the implication was that a gutsy prosecutor will lose a couple along the way.