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Maxine Waters: House Financial Services’ priorities include financial stability, diversity

Rep. Maxine Waters

The House Financial Services Committee will focus on making sure financial regulators are enforcing laws and promoting financial stability, and that financial firms do more to increase diversity, Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said in her first policy speech Wednesday.

Ms. Waters, who has served on the committee since 1991, outlined those and other priorities in a speech at the Center for American Progress. She singled out former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau acting director Mick Mulvaney for what she said were efforts to undermine its mission created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

"But it's not just Mick Mulvaney who I will be paying attention to. I will be keeping a watchful eye on all of the financial regulators to make sure that they are carrying out their statutory duties, including holding bad actors accountable, and promoting financial stability," Ms. Waters said.

Reforms enacted in 2010 as part of Dodd-Frank, including the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Volcker rule, were designed to help prevent a financial crisis, and the committee "will be paying close attention to whether financial regulators try to weaken these important reforms, and keeping an eye on the big banks and their activities, including by holding many hearings," Ms. Waters said.

The committee will also revisit the housing finance system and government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which have been in government conservatorship for more than a decade.

Ms. Waters also announced a new Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee that will look at what she said is "particularly low" representation at the senior management levels within the financial services industry and low numbers in that sector overall. "This has to change," Ms. Waters said, noting U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than half of all Americans will belong to a minority group by 2044.

Bipartisanship will also be a priority, Ms. Waters said. "Throughout my career, I have looked for opportunities to build consensus and work across the aisle on commonsense solutions to benefit hardworking Americans," she said. In the last Congress, she and now-ranking member Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., worked on a crowdfunding bill and helped pass the Supporting America's Innovators Act that makes it easier for more private investors to finance startup companies and small businesses.

The two lawmakers are reintroducing a bill to limit the ability of corporate insiders to illegally trade on non-public information, the Promoting Transparent Standards for Corporate Insiders Act.

"I think you are going to see a very robust, substantive agenda that focuses on consumers, investors and financial risk," said Dennis Kelleher, president and CEO of the non-profit organization Better Markets, in an interview. "That of course will be quite different than it has been for the past eight years." As a "key architect" of Dodd-Frank, including sections addressing financial stability, Ms. Waters "is going to shine a bright light on those areas of financial reform that this administration is weakening," including the FSOC, Mr. Kelleher said. "It will be about Main Street, not Wall Street."