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Ann Wagner (Missouri)

Ann Wagner (Missouri)

Ann Wagner
(MO-02) could write a handbook for members of Congress seeking to raise heaps of
Wall Street money. Since her first campaign for the House in 2012, Wagner has
collected nearly $3 million[1] in donations
from banks, securities firms, insurers, real estate companies, and other
financial interests. Few elected officials have ever raked in so much so
quickly.

And few have been so dedicated to advancing Wall
Street’s political agenda. As a member of the House Financial Services
Committee, Rep. Wagner has demonstrated a readiness to support just about any
proposal to help banks, financial companies, and their executives enrich
themselves at the public’s expense. Wall Street also appreciates Wagner for her
no-holds-barred attacks on financial regulators and regulations, and in
particular for her efforts to undermine the rules that aim to prevent stock
scammers and fee-gouging fund managers and brokers from taking unfair advantage
of investors and retirement savers.

Rep. Wagner has been especially aggressive in
her opposition to a rule calling on retirement investment “advisers” to
actually give honest advice – the kind that puts their clients’ financial
interests ahead of their own. In each of the past two congresses, Wagner has
introduced legislation to stall or kill this
Department of Labor requirement (HR 3857), clearing the way for a
watered-down, industry-backed “best-interest” standard that would likely allow
many brokers and insurance company salespeople to continue to conceal kickbacks
and conflicts of interest while steering clients into high-fee or high-risk
products that benefit the seller at the investor’s expense. In the past, these
pervasive practices have cost American workers and retirees an estimated $17 billion a year.

As further proof of her commitment to the cause
of financial deregulation, Wagner has stacked congressional hearings with
Wall Street-friendly witnesses and helped organize junkets, such as a “Spa Weekend Trip” in Las Vegas in 2014, where
corporate lobbyists could get up close and personal with legislators. When her
retirement investment bill failed to advance in the last Congress, Wagner vowed
to go to “war with the Department of Labor” over the issue. “If push
comes to shove… by god, we’ll just defund them,” she promised in a March 2015
speech, drawing “cheers from a crowd of 800 insurance brokers and executives,”
according to an account in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Through these and other services, Wagner has made herself a magnet for campaign
contributions from big money managers, brokerage houses, insurance companies,
and their lobbying associations. The Financial Services Institute, the
Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, the Investment Company
Institute, and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors
have each contributed $10,000 to Wagner’s
current reelection campaign, the maximum allowed by law.

While Wagner has aimed much of her anti-regulatory furor at the Department of
Labor and the Securities and Exchange Commission, she has also been a relentless
critic
of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the new agency that during
its first five years delivered nearly $12 billion in relief to more than 29
million Americans
cheated by banks and other financial
companies.

Campaign contributions

Financial companies and their executives have
been huge funders of Rep. Wagner’s political career. Since 2011, she has taken almost $3 million[2] in contributions
from individuals and PACs associated with banks, payday lenders, and other
financial and real estate interests – more than from any other sector of the
economy.

Wagner’s top corporate benefactors since 2011
include Edward Jones ($179,200), Northwestern Mutual ($161,650), Wells Fargo
($56,550), Rock Holdings (Quicken Loans) ($46,300), and Bodley Group ($42,000).
During the current election cycle, she has
collected contributions from Jones Financial Companies ($39,200), Northwestern
Mutual ($35,150), Rock Holdings ($27,550), PricewaterhouseCoopers ($20,000),
the Investment Company Institute ($19,000), GJ Grewe Inc. ($16,200), Bartlett
& Co. ($16,200), Bodley Group ($15,800), Dimensional Fund Advisors
($15,400), Credit Suisse Group ($15,000), Deloitte ($15,000), Ernst & Young
($15,000), KPMG ($15,000), MetLife ($15,000), USAA ($15,000), the American
Institute of CPAs ($15,000), Bank of America ($13,500), Berkshire Hathaway
($12,700), US Bancorp ($12,500), LPL Investment Holdings ($11,000), Scottrade
($10,800), Advisory Research ($10,800), Harbour Group ($10,800), DFC Group
($10,800), Holekamp Capital ($10,800), the Mortgage Bankers Association
($10,000), the American Bankers Association ($10,000), State Farm Insurance
($10,000), Citigroup ($10,000), the National Association of Insurance and
Financial Advisors ($10,000), Capital Group Companies ($10,000), Massachusetts
Mutual Life Insurance ($10,000), the Securities Industry and Financial
Marketing Association ($10,000), Prudential Financial ($10,000), the American
Council of Life Insurers ($10,000), the American Land Title Association
($10,000),  UBS ($10,000), New York Life
Insurance ($10,000), the Financial Services Institute ($10,000), Morgan Stanley
($9,500), Zurich Financial Services ($9,500), JPMorgan Chase & Co ($9,500),
PNC Financial Services ($8,500), the American Financial Services Association
($8,000), and many others.

Bills Introduced and Cosponsored

Ann Wagner has introduced or cosponsored a series
of bills designed to make it easier for banks, securities, firm, insurers, real
estate companies, and other financial entities to take unfair advantage of
customers, investors, workers, and taxpayers, or to threaten the safety and
stability of the financial system as a whole. These include proposals to:

●  Impose
crippling administrative and analytical burdens on the Securities and Exchange
Commission and its regulatory process; the SEC’s failure to assess every
imaginable alternative would be grounds enough for a company to have a rule
overturned in court. (HR 78, introduced)

●  Weaken oversight of the Big 3 credit ratings agencies,
Moody’s, Standard & Poors, and Fitch, which made huge sums of money by
slapping triple-A ratings on toxic mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to
the financial crisis (HR 3911, introduced)

●  Make it easier for unproven “micro-cap” companies to issue shares without SEC review of their offering documents, an invitation to accounting fraud, market manipulation, and insider trading, all of which have been found to be more common among micro-cap companies and particularly among non-exchange-listed companies. (HR 2201, introduced).

Voting record

In 2017 and 2018,
Americans for Financial Reform (a coalition of more than 200 consumer and other
public-interest groups) tracked 38 House floor votes and 36 Financial Services Committee
votes
 – 74 votes altogether – on
measures benefiting Wall Street banks and other financial companies at the
expense of the country as a whole. Rep. Ann Wagner voted for all 74,
including proposals to:

●  Sharply
reduce the funding, powers, and political independence of the Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau, making it easier for mortgage lenders, payday
lenders, and credit card companies, etc. to stick customers with hidden fees
and unexpected charges (HR 10, voted
for
);

●  Repeal
the “Volcker Rule,” which bars the big Wall Street banks from playing reckless
games with insured deposits and other taxpayer-subsidized funds (HR 10, voted
for
);

●  Roll
back consumer credit safeguards for mobile (or manufactured) homes, making it
easier to steer borrowers into high-cost loans with excessive fees and interest
– in an industry that has long been rife with such abuses (HR 1699, voted
for
);

●  Weaken
oversight of the Big 3 credit ratings agencies, Moody’s, Standard & Poors,
and Fitch, which made huge sums of money by slapping triple-A ratings on toxic
mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the financial crisis (HR 3911, voted
for
);

●  Give
Wall Street banks and other large financial companies a new way to undo rules
they dislike, by requiring the explicit approval of both houses of Congress
before any major regulation takes effect (HR 26voted for); and

●  Strip
consumers of the right to band together and take banks and other financial
companies to court over systematic wrongdoing, leaving people with no recourse
except to submit an individual complaint to a corporate-friendly private
arbitration firm. This is a system that effectively operates as a corporate Get
out of Jail Free Card, since the damage to any one victim of financial industry
fraud and trickery is rarely large enough to justify the cost of legal action,
and arbitration proceedings are usually kept under wraps. (HJ Resolution 111, voted for)

●  Repeal a
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau auto-lending directive against practices
that result in borrowers of color being charged higher rates and fees—a
systematic problem in this industry. (Joint Resolution 57, voted for).

Ann Wagner also voted
for the Republican tax-cut plan (HR 1), from which big banks and
financial companies – and their executives – stand to gain hundreds of billions
of dollars, with the scandal-ridden Wells Fargo poised to be the leading corporate beneficiary.

In May 2018,
Wagner was a proud supporter of the biggest
rollback of banking regulations since the financial crisis, appearing with
President Trump at a White House signing ceremony. Backers
of this legislation (S 2155) described it as an effort to
provide regulatory relief for small “community banks”; but that’s a well-honed
Wall Street marketing pitch for bills whose chief beneficiaries, as a rule, are
much larger and less sympathetic institutions. In fact, the core provision of
S 2155 freed a group of 25 banks with $50-$250 billion in assets from the
heightened oversight put in place after the 2008-09 financial crisis. Far from
protecting community banks, S 2155 will spur increased bank consolidation
by letting a $50 billion institution grow up to five times bigger without
attracting any extra regulatory scrutiny – a point acknowledged by industry insiders
as soon as the bill passed. Its other unadvertised features included a
significant weakening of safeguards against predatory or racially
discriminatory lending, especially in rural areas of the country. Senator
Elizabeth Warren dubbed it The “Bank Lobbyist Act.”

All these votes occurred during the 115th
Congress, which has done next to nothing about the serious problems facing
ordinary Americans (health care, housing, etc.). If you’re wondering how the
same elected body could somehow manage to act on item after item from Wall
Street’s legislative wish list, the answer lies with Ann
Wagner and others who have built their congressional lives
around the pursuit of campaign donations from big banks, securities firms,
payday lenders, and other giant financial companies.

When it comes to the issues that Wall Street banks and
other financial firms care about, Wagner has ignored
not only the interests but the will of the people she is sworn to represent.
Ten years after the financial crisis, the great majority of voters – across
lines of geography and political party – voice their support for existing
regulations and say they would like to see the rules governing Wall Street and
the financial world made tougher. Yet in all the actions described
here, Rep. Wagner has not once taken a stand for
stronger rather than weaker regulation of banks, lenders, and other financial
entities.


[1] On 9/17/18, OpenSecrets.org showed Rep.
Wagner with a total of $2,960,299 in FIRE sector contributions, based on data
reported to the Federal Elections Commission and compiled by the Center for
Responsive Politics. Like other dollar amounts cited here, this number can be
updated by clicking the link to CRP’s website.

[2] On 9/17/18, OpenSecrets.org showed Rep.
Wagner with a total of $2,960,299  in
FIRE sector contributions, based on data reported to the Federal Elections
Commission and compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Like other
dollar amounts cited here, this number can be updated by clicking the link to
CRP’s website.

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