There should be changes to criminal law to require more responsibility from those at the top in order to prevent another scandal like that at Wells Fargo, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., told CNBC on Wednesday.
"Obviously people think that 'as long as I didn't know I'm not going to suffer the ultimate consequence,' which is white-collar crime," she said in an interview with "Power Lunch."
"If we can start developing a level of personal responsibility of corporate leadership with the ultimate penalty being a criminal prosecution, we'll see changes in terms of the duty to know."
Wells Fargo has admitted employees enrolled customers in programs without their knowledge in an effort to meet aggressive sales goals. About 3.5 million accounts were affected.
"I think somebody should go to jail," Heitkamp said.
When asked who that would be, she didn't name names, but said, "The person who is the most culpable for making the decisions."
In a follow-up email, Heitkamp's spokesperson said: "The Head of Community Banking withheld information until way too late in the game and did not talk to senior leadership about the systemic failures in her division. Senator Heitkamp believes that in cases like this, there should be real criminal fines and penalties for the individual that did not report the problems."
A Wells Fargo board investigation laid blame for the scandal on a high-pressure sales culture and former community banking head Carrie Tolstedt, who was accused of ignoring the systematic nature of the abusive sales practices.
Lawyers for Tolstedt rejected those findings, saying "a full and fair examination of the facts will produce a different conclusion."
Her attorney, Enu Mainigi, had no comment on Heitkamp's remarks.