Roskam (Illinois 6th CD) has been in Wall Street’s corner throughout his six terms in Congress. Again and again, he has used the powers of his office to help banks, payday lenders and other financial companies – and their executives – enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us. And financial companies and their executives have in turn been massive funders of Roskam’s political career. Top donors include Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, the Carlyle Group, and the American Bankers Association.
In all, Roskam has raised over $5 million from financial and real estate interests – nearly $1.3 million in the current election cycle alone. His 20 biggest corporate backers since 2006 include Goldman Sachs ($101,250), Morgan Stanley ($71,701), and the American Bankers Association ($68,500). Roskam’s top donors for 2017-18 include New York Life Insurance ($40,400), Zurich Financial Services ($23,900), Northwestern Mutual ($22,725), MetLife ($22,500), PricewaterhouseCoopers ($21,000), Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance ($20,500), UBS ($17,500), Performance Trust ($17,300), the Investment Company Institute ($16,500), Morgan Stanley ($16,400), Aetna ($15,500), Deloitte ($15,200), Marsh & McLennan ($15,000), Capital One ($15,000), the American Bankers Association ($15,000), JPMorgan Chase ($12,750), Bank of America ($11,500), Ariel Investments ($10,800), Lakeview Asset Management ($10,800), Elliott Management ($10,400), LPL Investment ($10,000), Ernst & Young ($10,000), and the Carlyle Group ($10,000).
In 2017 and 2018, Americans for Financial Reform, a coalition of more than 200 consumer, civil rights, labor, investor, community and faith-based organizations, tracked 38 House floor votes on measures that would help banks and financial companies take unfair advantage of consumers, homeowners, taxpayers or investors, or threaten the safety and stability of the overall financial system and economy. Rep. Roskam voted for all 38. They included proposals to:
- Make it easier for mortgage lenders, payday lenders, and credit card companies to stick people with hidden fees and unexpected charges by sharply reducing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s funding and powers. (HR 10, voted for)
- Undo the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule that required retirement investment advisors to act in the best interests of their clients, cracking down on conflicts of interest that cost American workers and retirees an estimated $17 billion a year. (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)
- Let big banks boost profits by reducing the capital reserves they have to set aside as a safeguard against losses. (HR 4296, 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 riddled 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 26, voted for)
- Strip consumers of the right to band together and take banks and other financial companies to court over systematic wrongdoing. By doing so, it legitimized the financial industry’s use of take-it-or-leave-it contracts that leave 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 firms are typically chosen by (and dependent on future business from) the companies being complained against. (HJ Resolution 111, voted for)
Roskam also supported the Republican tax-cut plan, from which big banks, 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. And in May 2018, he voted for S 2155, the biggest rollback of banking regulations since the financial crisis. Backers of this legislation (S 2155) described it as an effort to provide regulatory relief for small “community banks” – a well-honed Wall Street marketing pitch for bills whose chief beneficiaries, as a rule, are much larger and less sympathetic institutions. The core provision of S 2155 freed a group of 25 banks with assets in the $50-$250 billion range from the heightened oversight regime established after the 2008-09 financial crisis. Far from protecting community banks, it 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. The “Bank Lobbyist Act,” Senator Elizabeth Warren dubbed it.
All these votes occurred during the 115th Congress, which has done next to nothing about the serious problems facing ordinary Americans. If you’re wondering how this same body of elected officials could somehow manage to act on item after item from Wall Street’s legislative wish list, Peter Roskam is one big answer – Roskam and the far too many other lawmakers like him who have built their political careers around the pursuit of campaign cash from big banks, securities firms, payday lenders and other giant financial companies.
When it comes to the issues that concern them, Roskam has a long record of ignoring not only the interests but the will of the people he is sworn to represent. The great majority of Americans, across party lines, want to see tougher financial regulation and worry that Wall Street has too much influence over our economy and government. Yet not once in all the actions described here has Rep. Roskam taken a stand in favor of stronger rather than weaker regulation of banks, lenders and other Wall Street entities.