WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton wants to crack down on bad behavior by Wall Street by punishing individual investors, financial managers and traders for misconduct, saying they will be “prosecuted and imprisoned.”
Bankers who violate the law would face the possibility of tougher criminal penalties, according to a summary of Clinton’s plan released Wednesday night by her campaign. They also would be banned from future employment in the financial industry and could find their compensation penalized as part of a government settlement.
Her proposals came just days before the first Democratic presidential debate with her primary rivals. Liberal Democrats have spent months calling on Clinton to take a more aggressive approach to regulating Wall Street. In recent weeks, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has gained ground against her in early primary states with a populist economic message that vows to take on the “billionaires.”
Clinton’s close ties to Wall Street and the centrist economic policies of the administration of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, make some in her party skeptical of her populist credentials. Both Clintons have earned millions in speaking fees, including some from Wall Street banks, and daughter Chelsea and her husband have worked at hedge funds.
In the first major economic speech of her presidential campaign, last July in New York City, Clinton expressed outrage at accounts of money laundering and currency manipulation involving several major financial firms. She said few rogue traders had faced consequences for malfeasance, a subtle swipe at the Obama administration, which took no action against the individual financial titans who pursued risky fiscal practices.
“This is wrong, and on my watch it will change,” she said.
Along with a greater emphasis on punishing individual bad actors, she will also impose a new tax on high-frequency trading, her campaign said. The fee would target trading strategies that involve significant numbers of order cancelations, a practice her campaign says makes markets “less stable and less fair.”
Her plan would extend the statute of limitations on major financial fraud cases to allow prosecutors more time to develop a case. She would also increase federal funding for financial regulators including the Securities and Exchange Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and raise the maximum fines those agencies can levy.
She also proposes limiting the use of pacts, known as deferred prosecution agreements, where the Justice Department agrees not to press criminal charges if a settlement is reached.
Her plan may not go far enough for elements of her party’s base, who would like to see the revival of a Depression-era law banning financial institutions from combining their commercial banking operations with riskier investment banking. Two of her rivals, Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, say they’d like to see the law, called Glass-Steagall, restored. It was repealed during the administration of Clinton’s husband.
Speaking in Iowa this week, Clinton said she isn’t focused on reinstating the law.
“The big banks are not the only thing we have to worry about,” Clinton said on Tuesday in Davenport. “I’ve studied this real closely and what I am proposing is we go after the risk, and if they are too big to manage, that is a risk and they should not continue”
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