He carries a big stick, but doesn't walk softly

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The Independent Online

His father was one of New York's biggest property magnates, and his office is an arm's length from some of Wall Street's largest financial institutions. Yet Eliot Spitzer has become the scourge of the business community in the United States.

His father was one of New York's biggest property magnates, and his office is an arm's length from some of Wall Street's largest financial institutions. Yet Eliot Spitzer has become the scourge of the business community in the United States.

Mr Spitzer has taken on some of the country's largest companies over allegations of a host of practices ranging from the inappropriate to the straightforwardly corrupt, and has emerged triumphant from the tussles, winning substantial financial settlements from investment banks and fund managers. Earlier this year, pharmaceuticals companies including GlaxoSmithkline of the UK, also bowed to pressure from the pugnacious prosecutor to publish negative and positive research.

To his critics, Mr Spitzer is an opportunistic self-promoter. The Princeton and Harvard-educated lawyer is accused of targeting the corporate world to satisfy the desire of the public to punish businessmen after the shocking scandals of Enron and WorldCom.

His desire to enter the world of party politics is well known - indeed he has already tried, and failed, to win office on the Democratic ticket. At that time, it was the perception that he was taking a short cut to power using his family's money that put voters off.

Others say it is acceptable for Mr Spitzer, 45, to have a nose for the political climate for he is a politician. In New York, attorney generals are elected officials.

Douglas Wigdor, a partner at the employment law firm Thompson, Wigdor and Gilly, who has experience of working with Mr Spitzer and against him, said: "There can be no dispute that he is politically motivated. But his aggression and refusal to turn a blind eye to corruption at the highest levels should be applauded."

Those who are certainly not celebrating Mr Spitzer's achievements include the companies that suffered serious blows to their reputations, as well as being forced to sack senior executives and pay hefty settlements. But to most ordinary people, Mr Spitzer is seen as a consumer champion - an image which could come in handy in future elections.

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