On September 20, before the Senate Banking Committee, Sen. Elizabeth Warren ripped Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf to shreds (over the opening of as many as 2 million unauthorized accounts). And it was a thing of beauty.
Absolutely, CEOs should be held accountable and sent to prison — not just allowed to pay hefty fines and walk away. Banking CEOs should have gone to prison when they precipitated the subprime mortgage crisis a few years ago. Oil CEOs should have gone to prison over incidents like the disastrous and deadly BP oil spill in the Gulf. Auto executives should go to prison when they knowingly hide and deny fatal defects in their cars. And pharmaceutical execs should go to prison when they initiate obvious price-gouging schemes and, for example, abruptly raise a life-saving drug’s price by as much as 400% for no reason (or in the case of Daraprim, 5,000%).
Year after year such CEOs buy their way out of any culpability while their lowest level employees take the heat, lose their jobs, etc. And it won’t stop until a couple of those expensive starched white collars do some real time in a real prison (not some country club like the one Martha Stewart briefly “visited”). Fines, even multimillion-dollar fines, are considered just a part of the cost of doing business. They don’t even come out of the CEO’s own pocket.
It’s one of the benefits of being extremely wealthy. If you’re rich enough, the law doesn’t apply to you. (But lots of luck if you were one of the 5,300 lower level employees fired by Wells Fargo for their participation in this scheme.)