December 22, 2017

Harris, Warren, Feinstein, Blumenthal Introduce Bill to Empower State AG Enforcement for National Banks

WASHINGTON. D.C. – U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) today introduced the Accountability for Wall Street Executives Act of 2017, a bill that will allow state attorneys general and other state law enforcers to issue subpoenas during the course of investigations regarding compliance with state law by national banks.

“We have a duty to the American people to uncover unlawful behavior and hold violators accountable,” said Senator Harris. “State law enforcement should be empowered with the tools they need to protect Americans from Wall Street abuse and fraudulent behavior by national banks. As a former attorney general, I know how critical it is to conduct a thorough investigation in order to identify fraud and hold bad actors accountable. This will help ensure national banks are complying under state law and avoiding the type of illegal behavior that led to the Great Recession.

“Massachusetts has strong consumer protection laws, and our state attorney general should have the tools she needs to hold big banks accountable for breaking those laws,” said Senator Warren. “This bill will help protect consumers who’ve been cheated.”

“Bank fraud and other financial crimes have affected consumers in every state, including California,” said Senator Feinstein. “State attorneys general should have all the tools they need to investigate potential violations of state laws. This bill will help them hold banks accountable, protect consumers and preserve the integrity of our financial system.”

“As a former Connecticut Attorney General, I respect the essential partnerships that exist between state and federal officials,” said Senator Blumenthal. “This crucial measure closes a loophole in financial protection oversight to allow state attorneys general to combine forces with federal law enforcement to prevent the type of abuse and immorality by Wall Street that led to the Great Recession. Congress must restore key enforcement powers to state attorneys general immediately for fully comprehensive protection against unlawful financial activity.”

The Accountability for Wall Street Executives Act would:

  • Clarify that state Attorneys General have authority to conduct visitorial oversight of federally-chartered national banks.
  • Repair language in the National Bank Act that the Supreme Court interpreted as limiting the visitorial powers of state law enforcers when addressing compliance with state law by national banks. 
  • Permit subpoenas for suspected violations of real estate lending laws. With this subpoena power, genuine law enforcement becomes possible.
  • Ensure there will always be at least two “cops on the block” to ensure federally-chartered banks are complying with state financial protection laws and avoiding the kinds of risky bets that would contribute to another financial crisis like the mortgage scandal that caused the Great Recession. 

A copy of the bill text is available HERE.

The Accountability for Wall Street Executives Act has received support from the Democratic Attorney General Association (DAGA), Public Citizen, Center for Responsible Lending (CFRL), and the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC).

As Attorney General of California, Senator Harris created a Mortgage Fraud Strike Force within the California Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute misconduct at all stages of the mortgage process and in February 2012, she secured an unprecedented settlement with the nation’s five largest banks, securing $20 billion in financial relief for California homeowners flattened by the foreclosure crisis. Harris also sponsored the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, a package of laws instituting permanent mortgage-related reforms. 

###