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August 04, 2020
Revolving Door Project Comments on OCC's Proposed Rulemaking on Digital Activities
As numerous civil rights and racial justice organizations have highlighted, changes to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC) regulations on digital activities are likely to have far-reaching consequences as it regards economic and racial equity. Specifically, these changes risk leading to disparate impact, “digital redlining, “predatory inclusion,” and enhanced surveillance. Given the seriousness of this rulemaking’s potential consequences, the OCC should do all that it can to ensure that the public has the utmost confidence in the integrity of the rulemaking process. Sadly, in allowing that process to move forward under the leadership of an acting official with severe conflicts of interest, the Office is rendering public trust in it impossible.
June 04, 2020
A Brief Introduction to Your New Comptroller of the Currency
Last month, Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting, announced that he would be stepping down from his post effective May 29. The former First Deputy Comptroller of the Currency, Brian Brooks, has taken his place in an acting capacity. Although he is now one of the country’s top banking regulators, Brooks – who only joined the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) – remains a relatively unknown figure. Here is what we know (and more troublingly, what we don’t know) about the new acting Comptroller.
April 15, 2020
Freshman Legislators Advance a Courageous Plan to Address Economic Fragility
This crisis has shattered any illusions that our post-financial crisis framework is resilient enough to withstand the challenges of the future. Coronavirus has, in particular, uncovered one of our most fundamental, persistent weaknesses: our continued inability to anticipate and prepare for new financial risks. For this ill-preparedness, we have powerful actors like BlackRock, the asset management giant and political titan, to thank. In an effort to avoid more stringent regulation, BlackRock and others not only evaded scrutiny for their own contributions to systemic risk, but virtually destroyed the mechanisms designed to examine such risk across the wider economy.
March 09, 2020
Maxine Waters Highlights Wells Fargo’s Trump Administration Accomplices
The way our financial regulatory system is constructed means that true accountability for Wells Fargo cannot ultimately flow from the committee hall. Instead, it must come from the cabinet departments and federal agencies which hold the power to prosecute, fine, and regulate our big banks.
November 07, 2019
Freshman Democrats Seek to Make Corporate Oversight Routine Again
Rep. Ayanna Pressley introduced legislation last week to require the CEOs of the country’s largest banks to testify before Congress at least once per year. While this might seem a perfectly run-of-the-mill measure from an outside vantage point, it is a marked departure from this Congress’ aversion to most oversight (especially of corporations). Indeed, most members of Congress have shown no appetite for the type of populist, corporate oversight for which we at the Revolving Door Project have advocated. Pressley, along with a handful of other freshman Democrats (and Rep. Maxine Waters) are notable exceptions. It is long past time that their approach became more mainstream.
October 07, 2019 | The American Prospect
Freddie Mac Using Shady AI Company for Mortgage Loans
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage giant, is testing underwriting software from fintech firm ZestFinance. A creation of ex-Google executive Douglas Merrill, ZestFinance claims to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to spot trends in a borrower’s record that traditional lending models miss. This supposedly allows more credit to flow to borrowers who need and can afford it, allowing Freddie to issue more mortgages.
May 29, 2019 | The American Prospect
Commissioner’s Exit Would Leave the SEC Without a Democrat
Securities and Exchange Commissioner Robert Jackson might be leaving office in the coming months—well before he would be required to by law. The public was first made aware of this possibility when his name showed up on a list of people who would be teaching courses at NYU Law School this fall. Remarkably, Jackson has not issued a statement clarifying the situation and making it known if or when he plans to depart—and whether he might leave the SEC with just one, or even zero, Democratic commissioners.
May 16, 2019
The Oversight Options Available to the House Financial Services Committee
Eleanor Eagan and Jeff Hauser
The financial industry has been the driving force behind some of the most damaging economic trends of our time. In spite of this fact, since the spasm of reform reflected in the Dodd Frank Act, financiers have faced very little scrutiny from lawmakers. Instead of regulating the industry, many governing officials from both parties have chosen to collect campaign checks in exchange for helpful votes. Maxine Waters has rejected this complacency in favor of aggressive oversight. The committee’s failure to oversee the industry for so long, however, has left a significant backlog of issues to examine, in addition to the plethora of new and novel issues emerging under this administration. In an effort to help advocates and members of the public understand the scope of the task that the House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) faces, the Revolving Door Project has compiled a list of problems that deserve the committee’s scrutiny.
May 13, 2019
Groups Appeal to Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard on BB&T-SunTrust Merger
On Thursday, May 2nd, the Revolving Door Project, in conjunction with the Demand Progress Education Fund and Color for Change, submitted a comment to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Federal Reserve System Board of Governors regarding the proposed merger between Branch Banking and Trust Company (BB&T) and SunTrust Bank. This comment raised numerous concerns related to the implications of this merger, the largest since the financial crisis, and the integrity of the process by which it will be approved.
March 20, 2019
RDP Requests Record of Contracts between BlackRock and Key Federal Agencies
With just under $6 trillion in assets under management (as of year-end 2018) BlackRock is the largest money manager in the world. Virtually unheard of only a decade ago, it has now grown into one of the most powerful forces in financial markets and politics alike. Central to this ascendance was its risk management software, Aladdin. Aladdin — an acronym for Asset Liability and Debt and Derivative Investment Network — has become the “industry’s dominant platform for keeping track of portfolios.” It counts among its clients approximately 200 financial firms who use the software to manage approximately $18 trillion in assets.
February 14, 2019
Letter to the Federal Housing Finance Agency and Treasury Inspectors General
Dear Inspector General Wertheimer and Inspector General Thorson:
We write to request an investigation into whether officials at the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) or Office of the Comptroller of the Currency leaked information about the agency’s plans regarding reform to the Government Sponsored Entities (GSEs) with intent to manipulate markets for the benefit of investors in preferred and common shares. Sharing this confidential, market-moving information with the intent of benefiting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s shareholders would represent a breach of securities law.
January 29, 2019
How the Trump Team Might Make Some Hedge Funds Solvent Again
Eleanor Eagan and Jeff Hauser
Immediately following President Trump’s election, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s future generated renewed and robust interest. The Government Sponsored Entities’ (GSE) shares rallied on expectations that the Trump administration would take both entities out of conservatorship in a manner that rewarded all shareholders, including hedge-fund speculators. In the intervening two years, however, those expectations faded and shares in the GSEs underwent a slow decline.
January 16, 2019
One Trump Appointee, Two Jobs, Too Many Causes for Concern
Eleanor Eagan, Jeff Hauser, and Adewale Maye
You have likely not heard of Joseph Otting, as he has generated comparatively little attention amidst the circus that is President Trump’s executive branch. However, he is a deeply problematic official who has quietly amassed power in critical agencies that receive far too little attention given their impact on the economy and housing. Amazingly, Otting seems to be using these agencies to act upon resentments he developed as a “controversial,” at best, banking executive, making him a perfect representative of why we are concerned by the revolving door problem in our federal government.
March 25, 2018 | The Hill
17 Senate Dems Broke their Contracts with their Voters
“Trump in power constitutes a crisis for America, and the opposition must be unified!” That’s been the cry from the Democratic party establishment since the presidential election of 2016.
As calls for unity go, this one is unusually justifiable, imperative, in fact. But the Democratic establishment broke faith with its own credo in the past few weeks, even as the benefits of a unified effort against Trump and the Republicans became clear in the congressional election that delivered a victory to Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania.
December 18, 2017
Steven Mnuchin’s Stealth Conflict of Interest
The only solution out of the quagmire of Trump’s National Finance Chair supervising an agency critical to Mueller’s investigation is for Mnuchin to recuse himself from supervision of FinCEN during the duration of Mueller’s investigation.