Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who is clearly following in the massive footsteps of Ted Kennedy to become “The People’s Senator,” kicked some Wall Street butt on Thursday in her first Senate Banking Committee hearing.
Senator Warren pulled no punches in her grilling of regulators, asking them point-blank — several times — “When did you last take a large financial institution, a Wall Street bank, to trial?”
Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry was first up, giving a stumbling non-answer that amounted to “Well, we settle so we don’t have to.”
“I appreciate you saying you didn’t have to take them to trial,” shot back Warren. “My question is, when did you bring them to trial?”
That went nowhere as well, so the gentle lady from Massachusetts turned to Securities and Exchange Commission chair Elisse B. Walter with the same question. Walter similarly hemmed and hawed.”As you know, among our remedies are penalties, but the penalties we can get are limited,” she began. “When we look at these issues, and we truly believe we have a very vigorous enforcement program, we look at the distinction between what we could get if we go to trial and what we could get if we don’t.”
Okayyyyy, let’s try this again. “I appreciate that,” said Senator Warren, and repeated the question for what seemed like the millionth time. “What I’m really asking is, can you identify when you last took the Wall Street banks to trial?”
“I will have to get back to you with the specific information, but we do litigate,” Ms. Walter replied.
This of course wasn’t good enough for Warren, explaining that “If they can break the law and drag in billions in profits and then turn around and settle, paying out of those profits, they don’t have much incentive following the law.”
Then the senator showed exactly why she was elected, standing up for ordinary Americans with this bluntly worded statement, which drew applause from those in attendance:
“There are district attorneys and U.S. attorneys who are out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds and taking them to trial in order to ‘make an example,’ as they put it,” Senator Warren said. “I’m really concerned that ‘too big to fail’ has become ‘too big for trial’ and that just seems wrong to me.”
And there you have it. You can watch the entire delicious exchange below: