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Warren bill would curb ‘backroom deal-making’

Senator Elizabeth Warren submitted a bill Wednesday designed to reduce confidential settlements with corporations.

Elise Amendola/AP File

Senator Elizabeth Warren submitted a bill Wednesday designed to reduce confidential settlements with corporations.

WASHINGTON -- Senator Elizabeth Warren continued to push the government to more aggressively prosecute financial institutions, by filing a bill Wednesday designed to reduce confidential settlements with corporations.

Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat known for leading her party’s liberal wing, is introducing the bill with Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican known for his crusades against government waste.

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The bill sets down several requirements to ensure non-confidential settlements between federal agencies and corporations of over $1 million are disclosed, on government websites, including a written explanation detailing whether the financial penalty is potentially tax deductible.

The bill also would require public agencies to explain their rationale for settling confidentially and to disclose at the end of each year the total number settlements they reached, including confidential settlements.

Warren has pressed regulators to prosecute more cases of financial wrongdoing in court and said in a statement that her bill would “shut down backroom deal-making.”

Critics in the financial industry have accused her of grandstanding.

“Any time an agency decides that an enforcement action is needed, but it is not willing to go to court, that agency should be willing to disclose the key terms and conditions of the agreement,” Warren said in a statement.

Coburn said the bill would help taxpayers better evaluate such settlements.

“Since agencies are not currently required to disclose the financial structure of government settlements, too often the true value of those settlements is not known because often companies are allowed to deduct part of the payment,” he said in a statement.

Noah Bierman can be reached at nbierman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman.
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