DATE: Wednesday, November 16, 2022
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Liz Zelnick, Director of Economic Security and Corporate Power,
Consumers Last: Republicans Eyeing Powerful Financial Services Committee Gavels are at Wall Street’s Disposal
Protecting consumers has never been much of a priority for Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC), the current ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, who could soon seize the committee’s gavel.
And like McHenry, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) – who’s vying for Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions — has made a career out of serving the interests of Wall Street, the financial industry, and predatory lenders at the expense of average American families. It is no wonder the two have been rewarded handsomely by the industries they are set to oversee, to the tune of $15.5 million collectively.
Both longtime critics of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it’s clear McHenry and Luetkemeyer are gearing up for payback on behalf of their industry donors against the agency that has successfully returned over $14.4 billion in relief for more than 183 million wronged consumers. Both have already threatened to “exercise robust investigative and legislative powers” to challenge the CFPB’s enforcement authority, praised misguided decisions by right-wing judges against the Bureau’s constitutionality, and have sharply criticized the CFPB Director Rohit Chopra’s efforts to save consumers billions each year by curbing abusive and surprise overdraft fees imposed by banks across the country.
While receiving no mandate from voters who just rejected many of the most extreme conservative candidates, McHenry and Luetkemeyer are prepared to do everything in their power to let powerful Wall Street special interests write their own rules and evade accountability for mistreating consumers.
A review of their careers by Accountable.US found McHenry and Luetkemeyer have received praise from industry groups while raking in millions in campaign contributions from financial institutions and trade groups – raising alarm that the two will be little more than mouthpieces for industry.
Throughout his career, McHenry has received numerous awards and endorsements from groups in the financial services and private equity industries and received millions in campaign contributions from financial institutions he would oversee as Chairman. McHenry’s ties to the industries he could oversee include:
- In his most recent annual disclosure, McHenry reported owning up to $1,000 in non-publicly traded stock of Alliance Bank & Trust, headquartered in his home state of North Carolina.
- McHenry is also a frequent speaker at industry-sponsored events. In 2021, McHenry spoke at the Consumer Bankers Association’s annual Washington Forum. He spoke at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions in September 2022 and is slated to be a keynote speaker for the American Bankers Association’s Annual Washington Summit in March 2023.
- Meanwhile, throughout his career, McHenry has received over $9.2 million in contributions from industries regulated and overseen by the House Financial Services Committee, including the finance, insurance, and real estate sectors.
- And in the 2018 election cycle, McHenry took at least $154,000 from industry groups that lobbied in support of McHenry’s Protecting Consumers’ Access To Credit Act, which sought to codify “rent-a-bank” schemes into law, allowing predatory lenders to skirt state interest rate caps put in place to protect consumers from triple-digit interest rates.
- McHenry has also taken at least $722,500 from the three largest banks that made over $6.8 billion in overdraft fees in 2019 and the largest industry groups that have opposed the CFPB’s efforts to rein in overdraft practices plaguing consumers.
Meanwhile, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), who boasts of over 30 years of experience in the banking and insurance industries, has family connections to the former Bank of St. Elizabeth spanning over a century. Similar to McHenry, Luetkemeyer has several conflicts of interest, including his spouse serving on the Bank of St. Elizabeth’s board, after which Luetkemeyer disclosed selling millions worth of stock after the Bank’s acquisition in late 2021.
- Rep. Luetkemeyer’s family has been connected to the former Bank of St. Elizabeth—which was founded by his great grandfather in 1914—while his brother Brice had continued to serve as the bank’s president until its eventual acquisition in 2021 by Mid America Bank.
- In December 2021, Luetkemeyer disclosed selling between $5 million and $25 million worth of stock in St. Elizabeth Bancshares, the parent company of Bank of St. Elizabeth, while also disclosing his wife as a member of its board of directors.
- Meanwhile, Rep. Luetkemeyer has taken over $6.2 million in campaign contributions from the finance, insurance and real estate sectors overseen by the House Financial Services Committee.
- Rep. Luetkemeyer has also received at least $556,000 in contributions from the three largest banks that raked in over $6.8 billion in overdraft fees in 2019 and industry groups that have opposed efforts by the CFPB to rein in the worst offenders impacting consumers.
Bottom line: McHenry and Luetkemeyer often pretend to represent everyday working Americans while they frequently do the dirty work of their greedy corporate funders like big banks that have a history of fleecing consumers. It’s clear they intend to waste no time seeking payback against the CFPB for doing its job of protecting consumers, including making excuses for excessive overdraft penalties and predatory hidden fees that sap billions of dollars from the pockets of average Americans.
In the new Congress, if it seems like their behavior and actions reflect the will of their greedy financial industry donors, it’s because it will. READ MORE.