Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday proposed jailing executives responsible for massive data breaches.
Citing the colossal Equifax breach that compromised the personal records of nearly 150 million Americans in 2017, the Massachusetts senator recommended imprisonment for CEOs as part of a legislative proposal meant to hold corporations accountable.
Ms. Warren’s bill, dubbed the Corporate Executive Accountability Act, calls for expanding existing criminal liability to negligent executives of corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue that are found liable “for the violation of any civil law if that violation affects the health, safety, finances or personal data of one percent of the American population or one percent of the population of any state.”
First-time violators would face up to 12 months in prison under Ms. Warren’s bill, and repeat offender would risk up to three years if the proposal succeeds.
“Corporations don’t make decisions, people do, but for far too long, CEOs of giant corporations that break the law have been able to walk away, while consumers who are harmed are left picking up the pieces,” Ms. Warren said in a statement, adding that passage “would force executives to responsibly manage their companies, knowing that if they cheat their customers or crash the economy, they could go to jail.”
Ms. Warren’s statement explicitly referenced the Equifax breach, which compromised the personal information of over 145 million U.S. customers of the credit agency, including their names, birthdates, addresses and Social Security and drivers license numbers.
Richard Smith, the CEO of Equifax at the time of the breach, retired weeks after the breach was disclosed with an $18 million pension.
The bill was read twice and referred to the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee for further consideration, according to the congressional record.