December 6, 2023

DealBook: Warren Courts Her Top Critics

Elizabeth WarrenStephen Crowley/The New York Times In a speech to the Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Elizabeth Warren trod lightly on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s plans to regulate Wall Street.

Elizabeth Warren’s charm campaign made a stop in enemy territory on Wednesday.

Ms. Warren, the Obama administration official who is overseeing the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, brought her calls for tough regulation to the Chamber of Commerce, a ferocious opponent of regulation – and the bureau itself.

But you wouldn’t know from her remarks that she had stepped into the lion’s den.

Ms. Warren, in a speech to the chamber’s Capital Markets Summit on Wednesday morning, trod lightly on the bureau’s plans to regulate Wall Street. She instead played to her audience, saying the bureau would ease some burdensome regulations.

“The lesson seems clear: Rules should be focused, and those that are not useful should be revised or eliminated,” she said, adding that the bureau would not primarily focus on writing new regulations. Ms. Warren said she even agreed with the chamber’s recent proclamation that the bureau should work to “prevent duplicative and inconsistent regulation of Main Street business.”

That is why, she said, the bureau’s top priority is to “consolidate the duplicative and burdensome” mortgage closing documents.

Ms. Warren’s charm offensive comes as the deadline approaches for President Obama to name an official director of the bureau – a spot that many consumer advocates want her to fill. Ms. Warren’s visit to the chamber — one of the financial industry’s top cheerleaders and lobbying shops — is her latest olive branch to fierce critics who stand in the way of her nabbing the job.

Ms. Warren’s calendar this year has been jam-packed with meetings on Wall Street. She has met with the chief executive of every major Wall Street bank, including Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Vikram S. Pandit of Citigroup and James P. Gorman of Morgan Stanley. Her industry outreach included talks with dozens of community bankers, too, and meetings with top credit card executives like Ajay Banga, the president and chief executive of MasterCard.

“I believe in regulatory engagement with industry, and I understand that industry provides a critical perspective in the regulatory process,” she said in the speech.

Ms. Warren also played up her recent hires, which include some familiar faces on Wall Street. The bureau tapped Rajeev Date, a former Deutsche Bank managing director and Capital One Financial senior vice president, to oversee the rule-writing process. Mr. Date, Ms. Warren told the chamber, “has spent almost his entire career working for financial services firms, and he is acutely aware that we need to make sure that any rules we write will enhance the market.”

Ms. Warren also hired Elizabeth Vale, a former Morgan Stanley managing director, a lawyer who has represented the financial industry and a former senior employee at the mortgage-finance giant Freddie Mac.

“We’ve built a structure to make sure that any rules we write will be fact-based and grounded in a deep understanding of the market being regulated,” Ms. Warren said.

Still, playing nice with Wall Street will not be an easy feat for the bureau.

“I’ve been in Washington only a short time, but I have eyes,” Ms. Warren said. “Industry groups have extraordinary resources to push back on oversight and to make their views known, as is their right.”

It also remains to be seen whether Ms. Warren’s efforts will win her the job as the bureau’s director.

When President Obama tapped Ms. Warren, a Harvard law professor, to set up the bureau in September, he stopped short of nominating her to be its first director. The bureau’s director will face Senate confirmation — not a sure bet for Ms. Warren, an outspoken consumer advocate and leading critic of risky lending practices. The bureau will formally open its doors in July, but it is handcuffed from writing several critical rules until it has a director.

Ms. Warren on Wednesday did not comment on her possible nomination, although she did say, “I didn’t come to Washington looking for a job in government.”

Ms. Warren’s appearance comes a year after the chamber led a campaign to sabotage the bureau. The lobbying powerhouse ran a series of fatalistic radio ads warning that the bureau would suffocate small businesses and ultimately hurt consumers.

Those efforts failed. Lawmakers created the bureau as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, the financial regulatory law signed by President Obama in July. The law gave the bureau authority over a wide swath of financial businesses, including payday lenders, mortgage companies and big banks.

Ms. Warren’s prepared remarks acknowledged the awkwardness surrounding her speech. “At the outset, I need to tell you that I’ve had more teasing about this meeting than I’ve had in a long time,” she said. “But then, perhaps, so have you.”

Ms. Warren’s speech on Wednesday will be followed by remarks from a more friendly face for the chamber: Mr. Dimon, of JPMorgan.

Article source:

Speak Your Mind