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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  • ronbo

    I hope Senator Warren has more than just words for the theives. Her words are better than taking their money ($49,000,000/Obama), giving them oversight (Lew/Citigroup, Daley/JP Morgan, Gensler/Goldman Sachs, Murphy/GS, etc…) and not prosecuting anyone!
    Obama should be concerned with Warren; she might hamstring his entire Treasury and Justice Department. They can’t protect their “friends with benefits” if they are in prison.

  • lynchie

    I am sure he is living very comfortably on the cash hidden offshore by the banks he let go free. He is one of the reasons i detest Obama. Appointing these turds like breuer, geithner, etc all pawns of wall street and then spinning the bag of shit “who better to watch them than people who know the system” told me Obama was a bought and paid for shill of wall street. In my opinion Warren won’t last long. They will get to her, threaten her, unearth some scandal (or probably make it up). The GOP will roll on her and Obama will do what he did when he first talked of her being head of the Consumer Agency–run away as fast as possible after being told to drop her by wall street and his owners.

  • hollywoodstein

    As long as Joe Scar, and Mika, and whatshername, and Mrs. Greenspan, and Mr.Toady, and Mrs. Toady, and etcetera, are manufacturing consent can we at least have the occasional Bernie, and Elizabeth to tell the muthafuckin trooth to the tools about how their holy of holies has been stolen from them.

  • hollywoodstein

    Moar her.

  • hollywoodstein

    Luv her.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Yep, they are great at shooting grannies in the back.

  • caphillprof

    Does anybody know whatever happened to Lanny Breuer, the man recently of the DOJ who gave the big banks a pass?

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    We have been recording and documenting the decline of the American Empire for several decades now. Nothing, repeat nothing will stop it. The power of corrupt corporations and religious imbeciles in Congress do not make for the longevity of a democracy. Obama has put the final nails in our national coffin with a populist show and dance that will put the Goebells Great Lie to shame by comparison.

  • cole3244

    sen warren its good to have you fighting for the working people of america, keep up the good work.

  • condew

    It’s always been a flaw in our system of justice that it matters less whether you are right than whether you can afford the lawyers press your case.

  • Charon

    Minor point, but MIT does not equal JSTOR. They are separate things and you are conflating them. (Most major universities in the US have JSTOR access.)

  • pappyvet

    The American Heritage Dictionary defined fascism as: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.” In 1938, Mussolini brought fascism to life. He dissolved Parliament and replaced it with the the Chamber of the Fascist Corporations. Members were not selected to represent the people, but instead to represent various aspects industry. Look around at the FACTS, wages as a percentage of GDP are lower than they’ve ever been. Unionization rates are lower than they’ve been in more than a half-century. And yet, corporate profits as a percent of GDP are higher than they’ve ever been in the history of the United States. It is not a theory that the attitudes and goals of the Dukes and Barons that we fought a revolution against are coming back. They are here already. They scream that a lousy 9.00 an hour will cost jobs and hurt the Mom and Pop outfits. But Mom and Pop did just fine during the decades that working folks had a voice and the middle class was growing instead of dying. The more people who have more money,the more goods and services are bought and the better the economy moves for everyone. But lets face reality,that is not what today’s fascists want . Hate your neighbor, go to church,buy guns and build bomb shelters, and they will take care of the money.

  • nicho

    I’m not sure it’s grandstanding — even if she can’t play a part. She may have the best intentions, but the forces of evil are so entrenched — even in the Oval Office — that one senator can have only limited effect.

  • bushtheidiot

    The corruption is rampant in our government, regulators are controlled by the industries they regulate: EPA, DOE, financial regulators. At a minimum, it is great news that at least one senator is willing to shine a light on this dirty truth about regulators captured by industry. Even if she accomplishes nothing on the legislative side given the republican and democratic deference to the “special interests,” at least she brings this information to light.

    It is completely correct that prosecutors routinely prosecute weak, thin cases, but when it comes to the big banks or any other powerful industry, they suddenly need to have a smoking gun 100% air tight case before they will even think about prosecuting. Most times, the institutions pay a small fine and move on. Even in the case of HSBC–they paid 1.9 billion in fines for laundering money for drug cartels that kill tens of thousands of people, a pittance in the context of their profit margin, to boot.

  • perljammer

    I guess only time will tell whether Warren can actually play a part in changing the situation, or whether this was just Grandstanding Du Jour.

    From where I stand, it doesn’t look like she can count on any substantial support from the President. She set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, then was removed from the running for director after Obama administration officials became convinced she “could not overcome strong Republican opposition”. No matter how admirable her position might be, it doesn’t mean much unless she can marshal the support required to do the heavy lifting.

  • nicho

    Maybe we should bring in the LA PD and the San Bernardino Sheriffs to “smoke out” the Wall Street Bandits.

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