The case involved evidence that hundreds of millions of dollars had been looted from depositors of the international bank. Ultimately, the bank was forced to close and a member of Saudi Arabia's main banking family and an associate agreed to pay a $225 million settlement, part of $880 million in total fines and forfeitures in the case.
"No one else was going to take on this type of banking system, because it's complicated, and difficult and goes to the heart of influence and power," said Cherkasky. "It was a wake-up call about how interlocking banking systems were and how a bad bank can cause incredible misery."
Morgenthau similarly has taken pride in his office's reputation for investigating and winning convictions of suspects in violent street crimes. "Every case is important to the victim," he said Friday, repeating a favorite maxim.
It was one of those violent crimes, the near-fatal 1989 attack on a female jogger in Central Park, that led to a relatively rare, but decided embarrassment. In 2002, he asked a state judge to throw out the convictions of several young men found guilty in the case, acknowledging that DNA evidence and a confession showed another suspect had been the lone attacker.
Morgenthau's impending departure opens the way for the already active campaign bid by Leslie Crocker Snyder, the former New York state judge who lost a bid to unseat him in the 2005 Democratic primary.
Other potential candidates include Cyrus Vance Jr., a former Morgenthau assistant whose father served as secretary of state during the Carter administration, and Daniel Castleman, Morgenthau's veteran investigations division chief.
Morgenthau declined to discuss whether, as widely expected, he would endorse and campaign for a favored successor.
"I'm not going to get into the political stuff," he said. "That's for another day."