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Wall Street not Main Street
To date, the U.S. Chamber has spent millions to derail rules to prevent the next financial meltdown and continues to fight the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation passed in 2010. On behalf of the largest Wall Street banks and corporations, the Chamber repeatedly pushed congress to weaken plans to protect consumers from predatory practices and restore rules that would make massive bailouts less likely in the future.Eventually, the U.S. Chamber deployed 89 lobbyists to protect the interests of Wall Street.
Often, the U.S. Chamber opposed financial reform in the name of “small business,” failing to disclose that small businesses in fact will be big winners with a strong Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Fully 59 percent of America’s small firms now use bank-financed credit cards to help finance their daily operation, up from just 16 percent in 1993. The small businesses reliant on these cards for operations were subject to the same predatory abuses from the banks as retail consumers: hidden fees, arbitrary rate increases, and opaque terms buried in the card agreements’ fine print. Moreover, in the current recession, the big banks have continued to punish these businesses by arbitrarily raising interest rates and lowering credit limits regardless of the business’ economic situation, even as the banks accepted $140 billion from taxpayers to help pay for their bad bets on subprime loans and risky derivatives.
As the downturn worsened, the U.S. Chamber did nothing to help small business regain access to lower-cost credit. Instead, the U.S. Chamber launched a multi-million dollar ad campaign to defeat the small business protections in the proposed financial reform legislation, falsely claiming every small business owner who offered store credit – even the local butcher! – would be regulated the bills. Independent analyses found these claims false time after time, but that didn’t stop the U.S. Chamber’s campaign.
Now, the U.S. Chamber is still opposing every effort to protect consumers and small businesses from predatory financial markets practices. It opposes increased regulation of risky derivatives. It opposes granting long-term and institutional shareholders the ability to nominate truly independent directors using the corporate proxy statement. It opposes maintaining strict accounting standards for publicly-traded firms. And it opposes new regulations of consumer financial products offered by big brokerage houses. In fact, the agenda promoted by the U.S. Chamber represents nothing more than the same positions and policies that caused the Wall Street meltdown in 2008 and made huge taxpayer bailouts necessary.
Who is behind these positions? The U.S. Chamber’s board includes senior executives of JP Morgan, Charles Schwab and Edward Jones, and many other banks finance the U.S. Chamber, including Bank of America, Citigroup, and Bank of New York Mellon. These firms have also lobbied heavily for Wall Street as part of an army of more than 900 lobbyists working to steer much-needed reform away from taxpayers and consumers and toward Wall Street interests.