Warren introduces legislation making it easier to jail top executives

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenKamala Harris receives new Iowa endorsements after debate performance Warren speech in Georgia interrupted by pro-charter school protesters Hillicon Valley: Senators ask Trump to halt Huawei licenses | Warren criticizes Zuckerberg over secret dinner with Trump | Senior DHS cyber official to leave | Dems offer bill on Libra oversight MORE (D-Mass.) introduced legislation Wednesday making it easier to jail executives if they or their corporations break the law or commit civil violations.

The Corporate Executive Accountability Act would expand criminal liability to negligent executives of corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. The executives would also be penalized if they repeatedly broke the law or breached civil statutes, such as those protecting personal data or consumers' safety.

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The Massachusetts Democrat also reintroduced the Ending Too Big to Jail Act, which seeks to hold big bank executives accountable when their banks break the law.

“Corporations don’t make decisions, people do, but for far too long, CEOs of giant corporations that break the law have been able to walk away, while consumers who are harmed are left picking up the pieces,” Warren, who formally announced her presidential ambitions in February, said in a statement.

“These two bills would force executives to responsibly manage their companies, knowing that if they cheat their customers or crash the economy, they could go to jail.”

Executives who violate the Corporate Executive Accountability Act would be hit with a fine and/or one year in jail for a first offense and could face up three years in jail for subsequent convictions. The Massachusetts Democrat noted the legislation has the support of several watchdog groups, including Public Citizen, Americans for Financial Reform, Take On Wall Street and the Consumer Federation of America. 

Warren, who has a long reputation as a chief critic of Wall Street and other corporate titans, made headlines in 2016 with her harsh rebuke of Wells Fargo after it was revealed that bank employees fraudulently opened fake accounts in customers' names. She has long lamented that big business executives often skirt jailtime when they and their corporations are found guilty of wrongdoing.

“Too often, prosecutors don’t even try to hold top executives criminally accountable. They claim it’s too hard to prove that the people at the top knew about the corporate misconduct. This culture of complicity warps the incentives for corporate leaders. The message to executives? So long as you bury your head in the sand, you can keep collecting fat bonuses without risk of facing criminal liability,” she wrote in a Washington Post op-ed Wednesday.

"It’s time to reform our laws to make sure that corporate executives face jail time for overseeing massive scams," she added.

Warren has made economic justice and corporate oversight a centerpiece of her presidential campaign, promoting the intricacies of her policies as a way of differentiating herself in a crowded primary field. However, she has struggled to gain traction as several of her Senate colleagues also run for the presidency on progressive platforms.

--Updated at 11:18 a.m.