Once again, Elizabeth Warren is demonstrating the kind of big, bold leadership America needs from a Democratic president: In a major speech a few weeks ago, she rolled out her most extensive, detailed agenda yet for reigning in Wall Street excesses and protecting working Americans.

Unfortunately, many of her fantastic ideas, like bringing back Glass-Steagall and closing loopholes that allow banks to write off billions in executive bonuses, would require action from a Congress so divided right now it can barely keep government afloat. But Warren proposed one policy change to put Wall Street on notice that any Democratic president — including President Obama — could do all on their own: Bring back criminal prosecutions against banks that break the rules.
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Our government catches big banks ignoring regulations all the time. But instead of putting them on trial and throwing reckless executives in jail, the Department of Justice nearly always agrees to a “deferred prosecution agreement” — a type of deal that allows banks to avoid meaningful prosecution or even admitting guilt as long as they are willing to pay fines that they already know they can easily afford.

Wall Street banks have gotten away with way too much already. As long as they know that breaking the law will never result in anything more than a slap on the wrist, they’ll keep taking the kinds of risks that led to the last economic collapse — and would almost certainly create another crisis for working families in the future.

Elizabeth Warren has made it clear that if she were president she would put an immediate end to what she calls “get-out-of-jail-free cards for the biggest corporations in the world.” That kind of progressive boldness is why we want her to run for president in 2016. And we should expect the same kind of boldness from President Obama right now.

Republicans and Wall Street-wing Democrats love to paint any proposal — like this one — that would make a real impact on the way big banks do business as “anti-market.” In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. This isn’t about hurting banks. It’s about keeping the market safe and fair for everyone. As Elizabeth Warren said:

“Rules are not the enemy of markets. Rules are a necessary ingredient for healthy markets, for markets that create competition and innovation. And rolling back the rules or firing the cops can be profoundly anti-market.”

Our country needs to have a president who will fight for fair markets by holding corporate wrongdoers accountable. Tell President Obama to follow Elizabeth Warren’s lead by telling the Justice Department to prosecute Wall Street banks that refuse to play by the rules now.

Thanks for standing up to Wall Street with us. And Run, Warren, Run!

– Jim

Jim Dean, Chair
Democracy for America

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