U.S. Markets closed

Trump target Maxine Waters is poised to take a lead on banking regulation

Brian Cheung
Reporter

Democrats won the House, which means one of President Donald Trump’s biggest targets, California Democrat Maxine Waters, is slated to become the chair of the powerful House Financial Services Committee.

In the days leading up to the election, Trump warned that Waters — a frequent target of criticism — would be “put in charge of our Country’s finances” if the Democrats won. But while the committee does not have jurisdiction over budgeting (the Office of Management and Budget does) or tax reform (House Ways and Means does), the House panel on financial services does have control over financial regulation and housing finance reform.

But Trump has more to worry about; Waters could use the committee gavel to issue subpoenas to Trump and those close to him.

As the top Democrat on the minority side of the committee, Waters has called on Deutsche Bank and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to provide documents concerning any ties that Trump might have to Russia. But a Democratic minority meant that only Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling and his fellow Republicans have the power to issue subpoenas.

“There will be more oversight and subpoena with committees headed by Democrats,” JPMorgan Chase predicted in its pre-midterm note.

‘We have absolutely been fought against by Republicans’

But Waters does have a list of policy priorities; she told CNBC in July that if she became committee chair, she would address affordable housing and the conservatorship of the two government-sponsored enterprises — Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC). She also pledged to “undo that harm” that Trump-cabinet member Mick Mulvaney has done at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency created in the aftermath of the crisis that was tasked with policing financial services products.

In this June 27, 2018 file photo, House Financial Services Committee ranking member Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., asks a question of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Speaking to MSNBC on Tuesday, Waters also expressed strong thoughts on banking regulation and lashed out at Republicans for using the last two years to enact revisions to the post-crisis Dodd-Frank financial regulatory framework.

“For everything that we have tried to do to bring about some fairness and justice for these financial services companies and etcetera, we have absolutely been fought against by Republicans,” Waters said.

Waters has been particularly hard on Wells Fargo, and urged the Federal Reserve to come down on the company for the fake accounts scandal that marred its reputation. In February 2018, then-Fed Chair Janet Yellen imposed a growth cap on the company and required it to replace three of its directors.

Waters later pushed for a “Megabank Accountability and Consequences Act,” which would require banking regulators to shut down a large bank that repeatedly violated consumer protection law.

At the time, Waters said she “absolutely” felt that the other global systemically important banks — Citigroup (C), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), and Bank of America (BAC) — should be punished for wrongdoing as well.

With a GOP-controlled Senate it is unlikely that Waters would be able to get the bill to President Donald Trump’s desk, but her strong stance against the industry could be a theme through the second half of Trump’s term.

UBS warned that Democratic control of one or both chambers of Congress would slow Trump’s efforts on deregulating the banking industry.

“Their control of the committees’ hearing calendar and their unhelpful ideological rhetoric would, at a minimum, cause headline risk for Financials,” UBS’s Bradley Ball wrote.

Brian Cheung is a reporter covering the banking industry and the intersection of finance and policy for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter @bcheungz.

Read more:

Midterms unlikely to halt Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks

Fed Vice Chair Quarles prefers ‘more gradual’ rate hikes

Prudential Financial to shed its post-crisis ‘too big to fail’ label