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US officials took a victory lap last month to commemorate their response to the 2008 financial crisis, pointing to $36 billion in fines as proof that banks have been held accountable.

But to US District Judge Jed Rakoff, who has criticized the Department of Justice (DoJ) for not criminally prosecuting senior bankers, such fines amount to an "easy cop-out" failing to achieve justice or discourage future chicanery.

"I don't think it has a meaningful deterrent effect," Rakoff said as he reflected on the government's enforcement record 15 years after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.

"For the company, it's a cost of doing business," Rakoff said.

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