Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Financial Services, gave the following statement at a full Committee hearing on financial industry regulation with Joseph Otting, Comptroller of the Currency. This hearing marks Comptroller Otting’s first appearance before the Committee.
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am looking forward to hearing Comptroller Otting’s testimony, and asking him about his activities at and plans for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).
Mr. Chairman, I believe that Congress has a responsibility to ensure that our economy and laws work fairly for everyone. And yet, at a time when banks are posting record profits, the Trump Administration and its allies in Congress have taken banking regulation in this country in the wrong direction.
Last month, Congressional Republicans pushed through S.2155. The legislation was championed and signed into law by Donald Trump, who made an early promise to “do a big number” on Dodd-Frank. S.2155 rolled back protections Democrats put in place following the 2008 financial crisis to strengthen oversight of Wall Street and ensure that risky activities do not bring down the economy again.
Since taking office, the Trump Administration has consistently taken actions that hurt Main Street and benefit Wall Street. Mick Mulvaney, who was illegally installed as Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by Trump, is hard at work weakening the agency from the inside. His latest act of anti-consumer aggression was to fire all 25 members of the Consumer Bureau’s Consumer Advisory Board and then to insult them on their way out the door.
It’s in this context that we have Comptroller Otting before us today, testifying here for the first time. The American public has the right to know if he plans to follow in the deregulatory, anti-consumer footsteps of this administration. I am particularly interested in hearing his perspectives on the direction in which he will guide the OCC on three important issues: the Community Reinvestment Act, the opening of fraudulent accounts by our nation’s banks, and the regulation of the fintech industry.
It has been widely reported that the federal banking agencies, including the OCC, plan to update their implementation of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). I agree that the CRA could benefit from modernization to reflect the changing banking landscape, which now includes online banking which is not solely based on brick and mortar bank branches. But any modernization process must not be focused on making CRA exams easier for banks – 99 percent of banks already receive a passing grade from regulators on their exams. Rather, any update to the implementation of the law must be focused on ensuring that banks are responsibly meeting the credit needs of their communities.
A recent report by Reveal News found modern day redlining – the discriminatory practice where minority communities are denied mortgage loans and have less access to credit – across 61 metropolitan areas in our country. That is unacceptable. So it is absolutely critical that the CRA, which was designed to combat redlining, is not weakened to let banks off the hook from their obligations.
I am also very concerned regarding reports that the OCC has found that more banks opened accounts without the consent of their customers, in a review conducted following Wells Fargo’s egregious fraudulent account scandal. I am looking forward to hearing from Comptroller Otting today on the details of the OCC’s findings on this subject and their plans to prevent such practices moving forward.
I would also like to hear the Comptroller’s views on fintech and the way that technology is rapidly changing the banking landscape, and how the OCC is responding. As Americans are banking and accessing credit in new ways in this market, it’s important that we encourage responsible innovation, and also that we ensure that fintech companies are providing credit fairly to all communities.
I yield back the balance of my time.