It’s about time…
One of the biggest criticisms of the federal government’s response to the financial crisis was that the massive settlements with some of the nation’s largest banks for the malfeasance that led to the recession did not go far enough.
Many questioned the government’s inability (or unwillingness) to pursue prosecution against the individuals who led those companies.
That was all supposed to change when the Department of Justice announced last year that it planned to begin targeting individual employees for corporate misconduct in addition to the companies themselves.
Now, a group of senators are asking the DOJ to put that new policy to work and investigate, and perhaps even prosecute, executives at Wells Fargo for the fake account scandal that’s enveloped the bank.
The senators state that the DOJ is already investigating Wells Fargo, but urge the DOJ to “thoroughly investigate the culpability of senior executives at the bank.”
In a letter sent Tuesday to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, 12 senators, including one of Wells Fargo’s loudest critics on Capitol Hill, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, call on the DOJ to put an end to the “two-tiered system” that would land a teller in jail for stealing money from the cash drawer, but allows executives to walk away relatively unscathed.
“Americans are rightly frustrated when they see that justice for the wealthy and powerful is very different than justice for everybody else,” the senators write.
“(The bank teller) can’t hide behind an army of lawyers and corporate policies that diffuse accountability for those at the top,” the senators continue.
“Meanwhile, an executive who oversees a massive fraud that implicates thousands of bank employees and costs customers millions of dollars can walk away with a hefty retirement package and millions in the bank,” the senators write. “It’s no wonder that Americans are skeptical of the effectiveness of our criminal justice system.”
In addition to Warrant, the letter is also signed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin; Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut; Richard Durbin, D-Illinois; Al Franken, D-Minnesota; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; Angus King, I-Maine; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota; Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont; Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts; Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon; Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont; and Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.
In the letter, the senators say that the Wells Fargo situation presents a “critical test” of the DOJ’s promise to “strengthen its pursuit of individual corporate wrongdoing” and to “focus on individuals” when investigating corporate misconduct.