Maxine Waters (courtesy photo)

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) has made history becoming the first woman and the first African American to Chair the House Financial Services Committee. 

Waters caught up with the Sentinel for an exclusive interview regarding the historic selection.   

Los Angeles Sentinel (LAS): Congratulations! …. What does the selection mean to you personally and what are your plans for the job? 

Maxine Waters (MW): Thank you very much. I am indeed honored to have this opportunity to lead the congress of the United States on financial services matters. I have worked hard, I have served on this committee over 20 years. I am well prepared, to deal with the very complicated issues of financial services. I intend to represent not only the women and people of color, who have not often times had an opportunity to provide leadership on financial services issues. I look forward to the challenge and I’m going to use every opportunity to protect our consumers, to protect investors and to make sure that we don’t have another financial crisis that would cause us to have a recession, such as the one that happened in 2008.  

LAS: Being that you have been a part of this committee for so many years, can you speak on the changes of the committee, how it has grown, how you have grown in that position and how you see that the it has changed in today’s era? 

(MW): Ok, let me just say when I was first elected to office, I was placed on the financial services committee without my choosing to do so. At that time, the financial services committee was known as the banking committee and it was a difficult time in the history of the committee because there was an “S&L” (Savings and Loans) scandal, and no one wanted to serve on that committee and many of the members were fed up with the committee because of the scandal that had taken place with the savings and loans banks of this country had decided to change its mission and they stopped being focus on home mortgages and they got involved in investing in shopping centers and commercial activities that they had no experience in. And so, from that time up until 2008, the financial services committee was focused on trying to deal with home mortgages and trying to deal with red-lining and trying to deal with the problems that had been faced with the members by the “S&L” debacle.  And as it turned out, in 2008 it all came to a head when we went into a recession in this country because of the way that Wall Street and the major banks in this country had in fact been involved in predatory lending…. and we witnessed the largest foreclosures of homes in the history of the country. And from that point on, I was involved with the Dodd-Frank reform to straighten all of this out and to create consumer protection. And so, I have served on the committee not only helping to create the reforms that were necessary to be able to get justice for homeowners who had been basically defrauded by the Wall Street firms. And to try and get the reforms that were needed to prevent this from ever happening again. And so, since the Republicans have been in charge, they have been undermining all of the work of the Dodd-Frank reform that we did and the consumer protections that we created with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and we have been fighting to try and hold on. Now that we are in the majority, I intend to provide the leadership to undue all of the harm that has been caused by the Republicans and been caused by Mr. (Mick) Mulvaney who was appointed by the president to be in charge of that Consumer Financial Protections Bureau. I served the directors who had once been there appointed by President Obama, left. And so Mr. Mulvaney has undermined it and has tried to destroy it and I intend to correct all of that, and I intend to hold the major banks and financial institutions accountable for all of the products that they [provide] and the mortgages that they put out so that we never ever again have the kind of meltdown that we had in the system that caused so many foreclosures and the loss of homes in this country and the destruction in our community. 

LAS: Final question chairwoman, can you speak on taking on President Donald Trump in the rightful position that you have? What can you share with us with what you plan to do or not do? 

MW: The most important thing people have to understand is all of the subject matter, that’s in the financial services committee and all the work that we have had to do, whether we are talking about national flood insurance, whether we are talking about EXIM bank that helps provide opportunities for our exporters to be able to create jobs and do business with foreign countries or whether we are talking about fraud and the oversight that we must do to protect fair housing or whether we talk about what we must do to reform the GSE’s (government-sponsored enterprises) better known as Fannie (Mae) and Freddie (Mac). This is significant work that cannot be ignored. We are not going to spend all of our time working with the processes of the president but we are going to follow up on work that we started looking at money laundering and the relationship of this president to the Deutsche Bank, that is known as a money laundering bank. And the relationship of this bank to the finances of the president and his family.  So, we will be taking a look at that and following up on the letters we have sent to the Deutsche Bank in the past, letters that we have sent to the treasury who has the responsibility for the oversight of money laundering and we will be looking at whether or not the treasury department is carrying on its responsibility with overseeing the sanctions that have been performed on the Russian government.  

Congresswoman Maxine Waters has served as a Member of Congress and the Financial Services Committee since 1991. Throughout her decades of public service, she has gained a reputation as a fearless and outspoken advocate for women, children, people of color and the poor. In her various leadership roles on the House Financial Services Committee, she has fought for the protection of consumers, investors, small businesses and vulnerable populations. 

Preventing Another Financial Crisis 

In 2010, Congresswoman Waters and her Democratic colleagues worked tirelessly to pass the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, landmark legislation to prevent another financial crisis, which created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency dedicated to protecting America’s consumers from financial abuses. Congresswoman Waters was one of 10 Committee Members to be selected to serve as a conferee on the Dodd-Frank Act. 

A central driver of the crisis was predatory mortgage lending, which intentionally targeted minority communities with toxic products and resulted in devastating foreclosures across the country and an immense loss of generational wealth. Democrats specifically designed Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Bureau to prevent the harmful practices that caused the financial crisis. 

The Consumer Bureau protects consumers from predatory and abusive financial practices in areas such as mortgage loans, private education loans, and payday loans. 

Despite Republican efforts to destroy the Consumer Bureau, Waters has fought to make sure it is not impeded from its important work cracking down on industries that have a history of harming consumers, including debt collectors, payday lenders and consumer reporting agencies. 

Auntie Maxine 

During the 115th Congress, Waters’ activities as the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee generated unprecedented public attention as she consistently and vocally pushed back against a harmful Republican agenda. 

While she has always been outspoken in her efforts to protect hardworking Americans and ensure fairness in this country, the era of social media has allowed for her longstanding efforts to be shared with millennials who have dubbed her as “Auntie Maxine.” 

During a June 2017 exchange at a hearing with Trump Administration Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Waters repeatedly ‘reclaimed her time’ after the Secretary failed to answer questions regarding her request for information about President Trump’s shady financial dealings and pressed him for answers. During another notable exchange, she yielded ‘not one second’ to a Republican Congressman during a May 2018 House floor debate on a harmful Congressional Review Act resolution to repeal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau guidance on indirect auto lending intended to combat discriminatory practices. 

Historic Committee Chairwoman 

As Chairwoman or Ranking Member of every Subcommittee under the Committee’s jurisdiction since 1995, Chairwoman Waters has always worked to create opportunities, ensure fairness, and protect the economic wellbeing of all Americans.

She has spearheaded efforts on important issues such as housing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 financial crisis, the subprime mortgage meltdown, public housing reinvestment, and affordable flood insurance. 

Some of her most notable work includes her efforts to mitigate foreclosures to keep American families in their homes during the housing and economic crisis and the creation of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which provides grants to states, local governments and nonprofits to fight foreclosures, home abandonment and blight and to restore neighborhoods. Through two infusions of funds, the Congresswoman was able to secure $6 billion for the program. 

With a Republican Majority in Congress, she also used creative methods in Committee to push a Democratic message. During the 115th Congress, she twice utilized a rarely used parliamentary maneuver to force historic Democratic hearings on Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s harmful Financial Choice Act, which she called the Wrong Choice Act, and the Equifax data breach. 

Chairwoman Waters has long advocated for consumers, investors, small businesses and vulnerable populations as illustrated by her extensive legislative history. 

In the 115th Congress, she introduced the following financial services bills to improve our financial system and the state of housing in this country. 

  1. H.R. 3937, the Megabank Accountability and Consequences Act, which would require regulators to fully exercise their authorities and shut down megabanks that repeatedly harm consumers;
  2. H.R. 2076, the Ending Homelessness Act, which would help to ensure that every American has a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home;
  3. H.R. 3160, the Public Housing Tenant Protection and Reinvestment Act, which would ensure safe, decent, and affordable housing for the 1.1 million families who rely on public housing;
  4. H.R. 3755, the Comprehensive Credit Reporting Reform Act, which would overhaul our broken system of credit reporting and hold the credit reporting bureaus accountable;
  5. H.R. 3936, the National Flood Insurance Program Debt Forgiveness Act, which would forgive the debt of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP);
  6. H.R. 3519, the Bad Actor Disqualification Act, which would protect investors by preventing the SEC from automatically waiving disqualification for bad actors;
  7. H.R. 3357, the Military Consumer Protection Act, which enhances protections for military servicemembers from abusive Wall Street practices by giving the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau authority to enforce the Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA);
  8. H.R. 6220, the Restoring Fair Housing Protections Eliminated by HUD Act of 2018, which restores several fair housing protections that HUD Secretary Ben Carson has eliminated;
  9. H.R. 5555, The FHA Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2018, which would enhance oversight of and compliance with FHA’s loss mitigation requirements in order to help borrowers avoid foreclosures;
  10. H.R. 4160, Preventing Foreclosures on Seniors Act of 2017, which would make reforms to the Home Equity Conversion Mortgages for Seniors (HECM) program to help seniors remain in their homes;
  11. H.R. 4159, Making FHA More Affordable Act of 2018, which would repeal the requirement that the FHA charge insurance premiums for the life of the loan, and reinstate the FHA’s previous policy of terminating premiums when the outstanding principal balance reaches 78 percent of the original home value;
  12. H.R. 6102, the Homeowner Mortgage Servicing Fairness Act of 2018, which would protect homeowners against foreclosure and increase the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) oversight of mortgage servicers that conduct business with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac;
  13. H.R. 5833: Expanding Housing Opportunities for Foster Youth Act of 2018, which would permanently authorize $200 million annually in appropriations for family unification program (FUP) vouchers, which is estimated to provide a FUP voucher for every foster youth in need of one;
  14. H.R. 6972, the Consumers First Act, a bill to block the Trump Administration’s anti-consumer agenda and reverse efforts, led by Mick Mulvaney to dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  15. H.R. 6320, Promoting Transparent Standards for Corporate Insiders Act, which requires the SEC to consider certain types of amendments to Rule 10b5-1 to ensure that corporate insiders are not able to indirectly engage in illegal insider trading through changes to their trading plans;
  16. H.Res.895, Recognizing the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco and the contributions of Lawrence Parks and Timothy Simons;
  17. H.Res.886, a resolution that affirms the Brooke Rule, which ensures that families receiving federal housing assistance do not pay more than 30 percent of their adjusted income on rent, and remains a widely recognized standard for affordability of rental housing; and
  18. H.Res.442, Of inquiry directing the Secretary of the Treasury to provide certain documents in the Secretary’s possession to the House of Representatives relating to President Trump’s financial connections to Russia, certain illegal financial schemes, and related information.

She also co-led several bipartisan measures during the 115th Congress, including H.R. 6139, a bill to require the Securities and Exchange Commission to carry out a study to evaluate the issues affecting the provision of and reliance upon investment research into small issuers; S. 488, the JOBS and Investor Confidence Act of 2018 (JOBS Act 3.0), a package of strong capital-formation legislation to help America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs and to protect investors; and H.R. 3110, the Financial Stability Oversight Council Insurance Member Continuity Act, a bill to extend the term of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) independent member with insurance expertise, which became law. 

Additionally, in previous Congresses, the Congresswoman has played a key role in major bipartisan legislation that eventually became law, including the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, the Community Lender Regulatory Relief Act and the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act. 

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) released the following statement on becoming the first woman and the first African American to Chair the House Financial Services Committee: 

“I am honored to have been selected by my colleagues to be the first Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee in the 116th Congress. Since 1995, I have served as Ranking Member or Chairwoman of every Subcommittee under the Committee’s jurisdiction, taking on important issues on behalf of consumers, investors, and vulnerable populations. As Chairwoman, I will continue to prioritize protecting consumers and investors from abusive financial practices, making sure there are strong safeguards in place to prevent another financial crisis, expanding and supporting affordable housing opportunities, tackling the homelessness crisis, encouraging responsible innovation in financial technology, promoting diversity and inclusion in the financial services sector, conducting appropriate oversight and ensuring that hardworking Americans and small businesses have fair access to the financial system and opportunities to thrive. I consider it a privilege to hold the Chairwoman’s gavel and look forward to working with my fellow Democrats, Ranking Member McHenry and my colleagues across the aisle on commonsense solutions that benefit hardworking Americans and strengthen our economy.”