December 17, 2014

Bill to Make Corporate Enforcement Deals More Transparent Blocked in Senate

GOP Senator Blocks Request to Pass Bipartisan Warren-Coburn “Truth In Settlements” Act Opponents Argue More Transparency Would Lead To More Accountability - And That’s A Bad Thing

Text of Senator Warren's remarks
Video of Senator Warren's remarks

WASHINGTON, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke on the Senate floor Tuesday night to ask for unanimous consent to pass the Truth in Settlements Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Warren and Dr. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). The Truth in Settlements Act would require more accessible and detailed disclosures about the content and value of settlements reached by federal enforcement agencies when the government declines to prosecute companies that break the law.

"The idea behind the bill is straightforward: If the government is going to cut deals on behalf of the American people, the American people are entitled to know what kind of a deal they're getting. That's the only way the public can hold agencies accountable," said Senator Warren in her remarks. The Truth in Settlements Act demands specificity and transparency in all federal agency settlements that include over $1 million in payments. The Act ensures that relevant details and terms of non-confidential settlements are publicized truthfully, and that the process by which settlements are deemed confidential is assessed and monitored.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the Truth in Settlements Act in July without objections from any Democrats or any Republicans, and the Congressional Budget Office found that the bill wouldn't cost taxpayers any money. Nonetheless, Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), objected to Senator Warren's unanimous consent request on behalf of Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Senator Warren continued, "I am disappointed but not surprised that there is an objection to this request because although there is bipartisan support for this bill and only one outside group has raised concerns, that group is the United States Chamber of Commerce, a powerful lobbying organization that represents the interests of large corporations." Quoting from the Chamber's letter of opposition, Warren noted that "(t)he Chamber's position boils down to this: Let's keep the details of these agreements hidden from view so that corporate wrongdoers don't have to worry about any real accountability for their illegal actions. That sounds great if you are a big company that breaks the law, but I don't think it sounds great to the American people."

Senator Warren said she will reintroduce and continue to fight for passage of the Truth in Settlements Act next Congress.

The full text of Senator Warren's remarks on Tuesday is available here, and video is available here. A fact sheet on the Truth is Settlements Act is available here.