Here's why we're so, so glad Elizabeth Warren is a United States senator. Warren had one very important, but really simple, question for the bank regulators at her first Senate banking committee hearing: When was the last time you brought a Wall Street bank to trial? But the regulators ... well, they didn't have very good answers to that.
The regulators' evasions were made all the more glaring by the fact that Warren first laid out exactly why it's important to be willing to go to trial occasionally, saying that if a party won't go to trial for whatever reason, "the consequence is they have a lot less leverage in all the settlements that occur" and noting that trials provide us with information about just what is happening at the big banks. Warren's question, then, was this:
So the question I really want to ask about how tough you are, about how much leverage you really have. What I'd like to know is, tell me a little bit about the last few times you've taken the biggest financial institutions on Wall Street all the way to a trial. Anybody?
When Thomas Curry, head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, evaded and evaded again, Warren kept pinning him down, finally saying, "Well I appreciate that you say you don't have
to bring them to trial, my question is when did you bring them to trial?" Curry's answer? "We have not had to do it as a practical matter to achieve our supervisory goals." Yeah, right. If your supervisory goals are extremely weak, that might be true. Next, Warren turned to Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Elisse Walter, whose answer was that "We look at the distinction between what we can get if we go to trial and what we can get if we don't."
"I appreciate that," Warren responded. "That's what everybody does. So the question I'm really asking is can you identify when you last took the Wall Street banks to trial." She concluded this section of her questioning by once again talking about the importance of the question:
You know, I just want to note on this. 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. I'm really concerned that too big to fail has become too big for trial. That just seems wrong to me.
This is exactly what we voted and volunteered and contributed to get Elizabeth Warren into the Senate to do: to hold the big banks and the organizations that are supposed to regulate the big banks accountable, to keep pinning them down rather than letting them get away with the standard evasions.
We helped put champions in Congress before. Now, let's do it again. Please chip in $3 to Robin Kelly.