Elizabeth Warren: “Too big to fail has become too big for trial” (video)

My favorite senator, Elizabeth Warren, showed that despite being in Washington, she’s not easing up on the banks.

Plenty of her colleagues may be afraid of taking on the banks (and losing the piles of campaign money), but not Warren.

It’s going to take more than just one person to change the dysfunctional system that exists today, where bankers are treated like royalty instead of the jobs destroyers that they really are, but it’s a start.

First a look at Warren’s recent appearance at a hearing of federal bank regulators, then a discussion of hacker and activist Aaron Swartz’s recent death, and how the two are related. Here’s the Warren video, following by an excerpt in print:

A bit of the juiciest parts of the transcript from Huffington Post:

The Democratic senator from Massachusetts had a straightforward question for them: When was the last time you took a Wall Street bank to trial? It was a harder question than it seemed.

Video:  Elizabeth Warren at the DNC – “The system is rigged”“We do not have to bring people to trial,” Thomas Curry, head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, assured Warren, declaring that his agency had secured a large number of “consent orders,” or settlements.

“I appreciate that you say you don’t have to bring them to trial. My question is, when did you bring them to trial?” she responded.

“We have not had to do it as a practical matter to achieve our supervisory goals,” Curry offered….

“There are district attorneys and United States attorneys 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,'” Warren said.

HuffPost notes that hacker/activist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide after being relentlessly pursued by the Justice Department for hacking into MIT’s database of scholarly papers, was a constituent of Warren’s.  What follows is some of John’s previous reporting on Aaron Swartz and the witch-hunt that the Justice Department, with the help of MIT, launched against him, quite literally hounding him to death, it now appears.

If the banks were too big for trial, Swartz was too small to let go.

If you don’t know the back story, Wikipedia has a quick synposis:

On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested by federal authorities in connection with systematic downloading of academic journal articles from JSTOR. Swartz opposed JSTOR’s practice of compensating publishers, rather than authors, out of the fees it charges for access to articles. Swartz contended that JSTOR’s fees were limiting public access to academic work that was being supported by public funding.

A few more salient points in this discussion, again via Wikipedia:

Shortly before Swartz’s death, JSTOR announced that it would make “more than 4.5 million articles” available to the public for free. The service was capped at three articles every two weeks, readable online only, with some downloadable for a fee.

Interestingly, that’s about the same number of documents Aaron is accused of stealing (“over 4 million,” DOJ alleged).  So there’s a serious question of no-harm-no-foul involved here, potentially….

Just to make things crystal clear, when MIT lost nearly $2 billion in 2009 because of crooks on Wall Street, no one was indicted, and no one went to jail – instead, the government handed the thieves $700 billion of our money.

Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz, via Creativecommoners on Flickr.

But when MIT lost a bunch of reports it was trying to sell, and then MIT gave the oh-so-valuable reports away for free anyway, the kid who forced them to give away the reports was quite possibly hounded to death.  And I’m going to go on a limb here and assume that MIT did not lose $2bn as a result of Aaron Swartz’s actions, or they wouldn’t be putting the reports out there for free.

Had Aaron Swartz stolen billions and declared himself a bank, he’d have been facing a government bailout rather than an indictment.  He’d also quite possibly be alive.

Now tell me again about how prosecutors cut deals all the time so they don’t need to actually take anyone to trial — yeah, if you’re a 1%er bankster.  But if you’re a 26 year old kid who didn’t appear to actually harm anyone, they prosecute you quite literally to death.


An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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