In the aftermath of the collapse of bloated tech lender Silicon Valley Bank, conservatives have flailed around, lazily throwing any culprit at the wall except the-word-that-must-not-be-said: deregulation.
Republican members of Congress are blaming “wokeness,” critical race theory, and diversity, equity, and inclusion—ignoring their own history of pushing for a deregulated financial industry.
Missouri Senator Josh Hawley on Monday complained that SVB was “too woke to fail,” opining that “these SVB guys spend all their time funding woke garbage (‘climate change solutions’) rather than actual banking and now want a handout from taxpayers to save them.” SVB, of course, lends money to any number of start-ups, plausibly including ones aiming to address climate change (and like any capital-driven financial institution, that’s definitely not its main focus). And Hawley—while posturing as a pro-worker, hardscrabble leader—has actually sought to weaken consumer protection and bank regulation.
After the 2008 financial crisis, the Obama-era Dodd-Frank reforms helped establish the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. Spearheaded by Senator Elizabeth Warren, the agency’s main task was to watchdog banks, lenders, securities firms, debt collectors, and so on to try to protect consumers. The CFPB has conducted oversight including fining Wells Fargo $100 million for transferring funds from authorized customer accounts to covertly opened unauthorized accounts in order to accrue fees and other secret charges. All that’s to say, to any regular person, the CFPB would be an organization worth strengthening, not weakening.
Not to Hawley, however. In 2017, the then–Missouri attorney general signed onto an amicus brief attacking the CFPB for “out-of-control regulations”; Hawley’s brief was tied to a lawsuit filed by PHH Corporation, a massive mortgage lender that was fighting a $109 million CFPB fine for overcharging loans to consumers and for an alleged “kickback scheme.” PHH allegedly referred customers to mortgage insurers it partnered with, and in exchange for the referral, the mortgage insurers purchased “reinsurance” from the PHH’s subsidiary companies.
With Hawley’s help, the company won, on the grounds that other agencies refused to go after PHH for the fraudulent scheme in the past; the court moreover ruled that the White House could remove the director of the CFPB at will. Hawley could’ve chosen to argue that regulation of the financial industry should be stronger, not weaker; he chose the latter.
Meanwhile, an array of Hawley’s fellow Republicans peddle the charade while having their own hands dirty. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Representatives Virginia Foxx, James Comer, and Andy Biggs have all come out with “woke” statements blazing, as they deride Biden’s plan to support depositors without burdening any taxpayers.
In 2018, all four Republicans voted to roll back Dodd-Frank rules that would have subjected Silicon Valley Bank to stronger regulations and stress tests to determine its stability and security.
Representative Ronny Jackson has also come out in full self-parodizing form:
While relatively newer to Congress, Jackson has had plenty of time to focus on the financial sector. One bill he has signed onto would prevent the Treasury Department from requiring a financial institution to report transfers in and out of accounts. Three more he’s signed onto would block a Securities and Exchange rule for companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions, in order to better tackle climate-related catastrophes.
Jackson, like the rest of his party, seems so deeply preoccupied with not letting shady corporate interests off the hook.