Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speaks during the "We the People" summit featuring 2020 presidential candidates at the Warner Theatre on April 1, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

'Cheat Working Americans, You'll Go to Jail': Warren Unveils Bill to Punish Criminal CEOs

"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."

Jake Johnson

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced legislation Wednesday that would make it easier to imprison corporate executives whose companies commit crimes or "harm large numbers of Americans through civil violations."

"Our justice system should ensure that if you cheat working Americans, you'll go to jail."
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren

"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," the 2020 Democratic presidential contender said in a statement.

According to a summary (pdf) released by Warren's office, the Corporate Executive Accountability Act would expand criminal liability to executives of companies that:

  • Are found guilty, plead guilty, or enter into a deferred or non-prosecution agreement for any crime;
  • Are found liable or enter a settlement with any state or federal regulator for the violation of any civil law if that violation affects the health, safety, finances, or personal data of 1% of the American population or 1% of the population of any state;
  • Are found liable or guilty of a second civil or criminal violation for a different activity while operating under a civil or criminal judgment of any court, a deferred prosecution or non-prosecution agreement, or settlement with any state or Federal agency;

Under Warren's bill, punishment for a first offense would be "up to one year" of jail-time. A second offense would carry up to three years in prison.

The Corporate Executive Accountability Act would apply to companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

"Our justice system should ensure that if you cheat working Americans, you'll go to jail," the Massachusetts senator tweeted.

Warren also reintroduced the Ending Too Big to Jail Act on Wednesday, with the goal of holding executives of Wall Street banks accountable for financial crimes.

"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," said Warren.

Warren's bills come just days after Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan abruptly announced his resignation amid numerous scandal surrounding his bank.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post Tuesday, Warren used Sloan and his predecessor, John Stumpf, as prime examples of executives who should be imprisoned for scamming consumers.

"I'm glad Sloan and Stumpf aren't in charge anymore. But this isn't real accountability, Warren wrote. "If top executives knew they would be hauled out in handcuffs for failing to reasonably oversee the companies they run, they would have a real incentive to better monitor their operations and snuff out any wrongdoing before it got out of hand."

"Four words are engraved over the front door of the Supreme Court: 'equal justice under law,'" the senator concluded. "It's the fundamental principle that's supposed to drive our legal system. But it's not equal justice when a kid with an ounce of pot can get thrown in jail while a wealthy executive can walk away with a bonus after his company cheats millions of people."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Lee, Pocan File Amendment to Slash $100 Billion From US Military Budget

"For far too long, this country has put profits ahead of its people," said Rep. Barbara Lee. "Nowhere is that more apparent than in our Pentagon topline budget."

Jake Johnson ·

UK Tory Prime Minster Boris Johnson Resigns Amid Relentless Scandal

"Real change can only come when the Tories are swept away and replaced with a people's government to redistribute wealth and power," said former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Jake Johnson ·

Fulton County Subpoenas of Trump Allies Offer Hope 'That Justice Will Ultimately Be Served'

"The coordinated attempts by former President Donald Trump and his associates to discount and ignore the will of Georgian voters during the 2020 election cannot be swept under the rug," said one activist.

Jessica Corbett ·

Russian Official Makes Nuclear Threat Over US Support for Ukraine War Crimes Probe

Another official responded to Western sanctions by suggesting that Russia could reclaim Alaska.

Brett Wilkins ·

Biden Denounced for Imposing New Sanctions as Iran Nuclear Talks Falter

One Middle East expert accused the U.S. administration of "continuing and embracing Trump's max pressure policy, while expecting a different result."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo