Eric Holder Jr., the nation’s first black U.S. attorney general and currently the fourth-longest serving attorney general in history, will be stepping down as soon as a replacement is found. The announcement caps a term in which he faced a number of pressing issues, including banking industry settlements, massive cybersecurity breaches, and a monumental shift in healthcare law.
Holder’s resignation, first reported by National Public Radio, comes in the middle of President Obama’s second term. NPR quotes one government official as saying Holder was “adamant” about leaving the post now, before he is locked into the position for the rest of Obama’s term in office.
Holder was one of three members of the original Obama cabinet still serving in the same post, along with Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture, and Arne Duncan, secretary of education.
Before becoming U.S. attorney general, Holder worked as deputy attorney general in the Department of Justice (DOJ). He also worked at law firm Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., before being appointed as attorney general in February 2009.
Two sources told NPR that Holder plans to leave the DOJ as soon as his successor is announced. However, his next plans are not known. A return to Covington & Burling is not out of the cards, especially considering Holder’s purchase of a downtown Washington condo in April 2014. “You'll have to figure that one out,” Holder told the Huffington Post at the time about how the purchase fits into his future plans. It's closer to the Justice Department, but also closer to Covington & Burling.”
Both in his dealings with the business world and outside of it, Holder was a controversial figure. In the past year, Holder secured the single largest penalty that a corporation has paid to the government with JPMorgan’s $13 billion financial crisis settlement. He also notably brought an antitrust suit against the merger of U.S. Airways and American Airlines, forcing the combined company to divest certain assets.
Holder’s successor as attorney general is still unknown. However, government sources tell NPR that Solicitor General Don Verrilli, the Obama administration’s top representative to the Supreme Court, is a leading candidate for the position.