Elizabeth Warren Plan Would Jail Executives for Consumer Data Violations

(Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren released a proposal that would hold executives criminally liable if their companies violate state or federal laws affecting consumers’ finances or large batches of personal data.

The bill, which was released Wednesday by the Massachusetts senator’s office, listed no co-sponsors but comes as she leads White House hopefuls in delivering detailed policy initiatives to crack down corporate power in the U.S. Warren has previously proposed breaking up big tech companies and agricultural behemoths and taxing wealth.

The bill, which is unlikely to become law, would expand the criminal liability of executives at companies with annual revenue of more than $1 billion under the following scenarios:

  • if the company is found guilty, pleads guilty or reaches a deferred or non-prosecution agreement for any crime.
  • if the company is found liable or reaches a settlement for any violation that affects the health, safety, finances or personal data of 1 percent of the American population or 1 percent of the population of any state.
  • if the company commits a second violation for a different activity while under a court judgement or settlement with any state or federal agency.

Under Warren’s proposal the executives could held liable regardless of whether they were aware of the harm inflicted by their companies. They could be fined or receive up to a year in prison for a first offense. Currently, executives generally only have liability when they know about violations.

If passed, the bill would apply to a scenario like Facebook Inc.’s Cambridge Analytica scandal. The company is under investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for whether it violated a 2011 consent decree when the British political consultancy obtained the data of millions of the site’s users.

U.S. policy-makers are debating how to rein in large tech companies while Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has suggested his own regulations.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.