Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wants the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to prohibit organizations from “saying whatever they want about Washington policy debates,” according to a letter she sent to the agency on Thursday.
Warren sent a letter to SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White calling for an investigation into alleged discrepancies between statements insurance executives made to their investors and complaints these same individuals made about the impact new government regulations would have on their businesses, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The new regulations stem from a Department of Labor rule change that will make it tougher for investment firms that handle retirement funds to operate.
In the letter, Warren alleges that she’s concerned discrepancies in their statements will harm investors. She even called out the individuals and their companies by name and asked for a “prompt and thorough” investigation into their statements, but stopped short of declaring that they violated federal laws.
“Corporate interests have become accustomed saying whatever they want about Washington policy debates, with little accountability when their predictions prove to be inaccurate,” she said in the letter.
“While I am hesitant to make a direct accusation that these companies have violated these securities laws with their directly contradictory statements about the impact of the DOL Conflict of Interest rule on their business models, I believe the circumstances justify initiating a prompt and thorough SEC investigation,” she wrote.
Rather than an attempt to make financial statements more open and transparent, however, Warren’s letter appears to be an attempt to gin up trial lawyer lawsuits against the firms she named. An official SEC investigation would inevitably make discovery easier and less expensive for plaintiffs’ attorneys seeking to make a buck by targeting deep-pocketed firms and bullying them into settling. An investigation, regardless of whether it was warranted, could also give rise to myriad civil suits.
Warren’s tactics mirror those used by former Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, who made a name for himself by regularly using a House committee that he chaired to conduct discovery on behalf of civil trial lawyers:
His queries went on and on until Barack Obama become President. One of Waxman’s favorite tactics was to carry water for trial lawyers, the Democratic Party’s largest source of campaign cash.
A House source said Waxman would settle on investigations based on certain trial lawyers’ discovery needs in pending law suits. The lawyers would show up at hearings to reap the rewards.
Lawyers and law firms have been one of the top sources of campaign donations for Warren. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Warren collected over $2.2 million in campaign donations from lawyers between 2011 and 2016.
This isn’t the first time the Massachusetts senator has attempted to obscure her opposition to free speech with a veneer of concern for the little people. Warren has spoken out in opposition to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling on multiple occasions, stating that the ruling — which affirmed people’s right to free speech in groups — helps them to rig the political system while hurting everyone else. The specific issue litigated in the Citizens United case was whether a group of individuals were allowed to criticize Hillary Clinton in an election year. The Supreme Court ruled in that case that the First Amendment clearly protects the right of people to criticize politicians.
You can read the full letter sent by Warren here.