Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) Rises As Banking Industry’s Overseer (#GotBitcoin?)
California lawmaker, a critic of big banks and President Trump, says she is ready to compromise as financial-services chairman.’
Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) has demanded records of President Trump’s financial dealings and pilloried financial companies accused of abusing consumers. She has also cut deals with Republican lawmakers.
The primary approach she brings to her expected role as House Financial Services Committee chairman next year—as a partisan or deal maker—will help determine the future of policies affecting the housing market, credit reporting, financial technology and more.
“Sometimes even when the microphones are on in the committee, Maxine will be yelling at me,” said Rep. Sean Duffy (R., Wis.), a senior member of the financial-services panel. “Then we walk out and I’ll stop by at her office and we will be working on a piece of legislation.”
Ms. Waters, a 28-year veteran of Capitol Hill, would have oversight of the financial industry and the power to force bank executives to testify and hand over sensitive documents.
At 80, she has represented the Los Angeles area for decades, She would be the first woman and first African-American to lead the House committee.
Ms. Waters is among Democratic leaders who will have to balance legislative priorities with demands from supporters to attack the Trump administration. She said she is ready to compromise. “Am I willing to work with the opposite side of the aisle to try to accomplish things? I certainly am,” she said in an interview.
Ms. Waters’s counterpart on the Senate Banking Committee will be Sen. Mike Crapo (R., Idaho), a conservative who compromised with Democrats last year to loosen banking rules. Mr. Crapo has signaled interest in issues that Democrats also want to tackle, such as the future of housing-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and legislation on how financial firms use and protect customer data.
Mr. Crapo told reporters last week he hasn’t previously worked with Ms. Waters but “there are a lot of issues out there where we can find consensus.”
Ms. Waters will have unilateral subpoena authority to request information from banks. As the panel’s top Democrat, she has called for hearings on companies alleged to have harmed consumers, including Wells Fargo & Co. and Equifax Inc. She said the committee under her leadership would investigate Deutsche Bank AG over Trump family business dealings.
Financial-services executives are concerned the committee could be consumed by partisan bickering under her watch.
“We just hope that the common-sensical, rational Maxine Waters will be chair,” said Richard Hunt, chief executive of the Consumer Bankers Association, a lobbying group representing large banks.
Some lobbyists say Ms. Waters’s pragmatism is under-appreciated, pointing to her support of compromises extending business-friendly programs such as the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), the retiring chairman of the financial-services panel, sought to curtail both.
“There are really a handful of issues where Maxine is actually much more in line with the larger business community than Jeb Hensarling was,” said Dwight Fettig, a Democratic lobbyist who represents financial companies.
Mr. Crapo and Ms. Waters share some priorities, but the two leaders have contrasting styles and political philosophies. Mr. Crapo has pressed for a sweeping review of financial regulations adopted after the 2008 crisis, while Ms. Waters is their staunch defender. Mr. Crapo rarely criticizes financial firms or administration officials publicly. Ms. Waters has lambasted both.
Ms. Waters didn’t attend Mr. Trump’s inauguration or his first State of the Union address, and has called for his impeachment. In June, she urged liberals not to welcome administration officials at restaurants, stores or gas stations. She and Mr. Trump have traded insults on Twitter.
Ms. Waters in the interview played down the prospect of a broad investigation into Mr. Trump, saying the Deutsche Bank probe is “the only issue we have started that’s even vaguely related to any concerns with the president.”
“Our committee is responsible for significant issues,” she said. “So we have to spend our time wisely.”
Ms. Waters won’t be able to stop Trump-appointed regulators from rewriting rules, but she can try to slow them down.
She said she was considering how to address a controversy over past racial remarks by Eric Blankenstein, the bureau’s enforcement and fair lending chief. “That does have to be dealt with in some serious way,” she said.
A CFPB spokesman said the matter is being “handled through the proper and appropriate internal channels.”
Ms. Waters also said policy makers have “a lot of work to do” to address homelessness and overhaul Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac , which have been under government control since the 2008 financial crisis.
She also said “it’s inevitable we are going to have to talk about” how the federal prohibition on marijuana makes it hard for banks to serve state-licensed cannabis businesses.
Lawmakers who have worked with Ms. Waters say her combative public image contrasts with her legislative record.
In 2014, when Congress extended federal flood insurance, Ms. Waters was key to forging a compromise, lawmakers in both parties said at the time.
In July, she and Mr. Hensarling backed the JOBS Act 3.0, a package of 32 modest financial-regulatory changes. The bill includes a provision to help people with little or no credit history to gain access to bank loans and measures relaxing securities rules to help business and investors raise capital. The bill has stalled in the Senate, but Mr. Hensarling and others credited Ms. Waters for helping it pass the House with broad bipartisan support.
Ms. Waters and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R., N.C.), expected to be the top Republican on the House panel, in 2016 teamed up to back bills designed to boost crowdfunding and venture capital. They have both introduced legislation to overhaul the credit-reporting industry, though it’s not clear they could agree on a bipartisan bill.
She said one of her priorities is oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose Trump-appointed leader has pledged significant policy changes in enforcement activities and bureau structure.
New House Financial Services Chair Targets Mulvaney for Interim CFPB Role
Rep. Maxine Waters says panel will look into White House chief of staff’s efforts to overhaul agency.
House Democrats plan to target White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney over his previous role as the Trump administration’s temporary head of a federal consumer finance agency, a Democratic committee chairwoman said Wednesday.
House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), in a Washington speech setting out her priorities, said she believed Mr. Mulvaney sought to dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau while serving as its interim head. Mr. Mulvaney spent a year running the financial regulator created during the Obama administration after the financial crisis.
“The time for accountability for his actions is about to begin,” she said, in a speech at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. Democrats took control of the House at the beginning of January.
Mr. Mulvaney didn’t respond to requests for comment. A longtime critic of the bureau, Mr. Mulvaney has said he sought to make the CFPB’s interactions with businesses less divisive and factor the costs of supervision into its decisions, pleasing Republicans and financial firms that thought it was too aggressive during the Obama administration.
Among other things, Ms. Waters said her committee would look at Mr. Mulvaney’s firing a panel of outside experts that advised the bureau on consumer issues and stripping its office of fair lending of enforcement and supervisory powers.
Ms. Waters, 80 years old, is the first woman and first African-American to chair the panel, which oversees big banks and their regulators.
She will have unilateral subpoena authority to request information and testimony from banks and the Trump administration. But she will have limited power to change financial laws or undo regulatory changes by Trump-appointed officials because Republicans control the Senate and the White House.
As the panel’s top Democrat, she has already called for hearings on companies alleged to have harmed consumers, including Wells Fargo & Co. and Equifax Inc. And she has said the committee under her leadership would investigate Deutsche Bank AG over Trump family business dealings.
On Wednesday, Ms. Waters provided few new details of how the panel would oversee the country’s biggest banks, though she promised to hold “many hearings” on their activities.
Meanwhile, any investigation of Mr. Mulvaney comes well after he left the agency, which he ran from November 2017 until last month. That is when the Senate confirmed his close associate, Kathy Kraninger, as the bureau’s permanent director. Ms. Kraninger had worked for him at the Office of Management and Budget.
Despite her criticism of the Trump administration, Ms. Waters pledged to work on a bipartisan overhaul of the housing-finance system to end the government conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac , and said it was “absolutely critical” to revamp the credit-reporting industry in the wake of the Equifax Inc. hack.
Republican support for both initiatives will be crucial to advance such legislation through the Senate, where Republicans control 53 seats.
Ms. Waters said she already has a productive relationship with Rep. Patrick McHenry (R., N.C.), the ranking Republican on the financial-service panel. “Throughout my career, I have looked for opportunities to build consensus and work across the aisle,” she said.
Still, she will have to negotiate with an influx of freshmen from the Democrats’ vocal, liberal wing, including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and California Rep. Katie Porter, who are expected to join the financial-services panel. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who acknowledged the committee assignment on Twitter Tuesday before its official announcement, said she would like to examine, among other topics, student lending and banking at post offices.
In her speech Wednesday, Ms. Waters said she is launching a subcommittee on diversity and inclusion, the first of its kind in Congress, to focus on the role of minorities and women at financial-services firms and in the corporate world. One of the panel’s main goals, she said, is to compile data “to help the industries reflect on what they have not done.Go back