“Corporations can only commit crimes through flesh and blood people,” declared Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Q. Yates. She made the statement in an interview regarding important new rules which emphasize prosecuting individuals as well as banks as institutions. The regulations were issued on Sept. 9.

The Feds are out for blood. The Justice Department is responding to criticism that financial executives got off too easily. Clearly new Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, who assumed her top post in April, is going on the offensive. Expect the last phases of the Obama administration to be punctuated by more aggressive prosecutions.

Perhaps the most notorious example is Goldman Sachs. During the aftermath of the financial crash, as the resulting recession continued, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) indicted the enormous, and enormously profitable, firm for fraud.

This was followed by tense and hostile hearings by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the subcommittee chair, repeatedly cited a gutter profanity emails revealed an executive using cynically to describe a new mortgage derivative product.

Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein and several associates faced the angry Senators. These executives generally were careful and controlled – but not contrite. None admitted any serious blame. Former mortgage chief Dan Sparks did acknowledge “some poor decisions.”

However, the wider context of Goldman Sachs’ public behavior during the financial crisis demonstrates political and public relations missteps which probably contributed, at least indirectly, to the decision by the Feds to indict. As other major investment banking firms failed, floundered and drastically restructured during the financial crisis, Goldman only became even more profitable.

In this atmosphere, the arrogance of Blankfein and associates may have tipped the balance toward prosecution. The SEC issued a civil rather than criminal indictment, implying possible ambiguity to the evidence. Nevertheless, the firm agreed to pay a fine of $550 million.

The financial crash and recession is regularly described as the worst since the Great Depression. As banks and other financial firms proceed, an excellent example of how to deal with such intense storms is provided by an outstanding company of that earlier era.

That company was – Goldman Sachs.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal were almost universally despised as well as harshly criticized by Wall Street financiers. The Washington reformers were accused of being socialists, communists, anarchists and more. Regulatory and other reforms which are now part of the American status quo were viewed as dangerous and destructive in the extreme.

Sidney Weinberg began working at Goldman Sachs as an assistant janitor in 1907 and by the 1930’s had become a principal partner. He led the firm’s survival, and return to regular profitability by the 1940s. Charles D. Ellis describes his remarkable career in the book “The Partnership – The Making of Goldman Sachs.”

In contrast to others on Wall Street, Weinberg strongly supported President Roosevelt, serving as a phenomenal fund raiser and also intermediary who recruited senior corporate executives from diverse companies to advise the White House. FDR approvingly described the financier as his “body snatcher,” anticipating the anatomical reference above. Weinberg also helped lead the mammoth mobilization of World War II.

Weinberg, the son of a bootlegger, was respected for great personal philanthropy as well as public service. His example is important not for reasons of political partisanship but rather for commitment to our public community. That is good business.

Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and author of “After the Cold War.” He can be reached at acyr@carthage.edu.