THE CEOs of giant US banks were grilled on Wednesday on their swelling pay packages, commitment to diversity and other hot-button issues in the industry’s biggest congressional once-over since the financial crisis.
Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat and chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, set the tone, hitting out at the industry’s “chronic lawbreaking”, documented in the fines and settlements worth hundreds of billions of dollars, while also alluding to financial crisis bank bailouts.
But with the industry on firmer footing today, there was somewhat less focus on financial stability than on the industry’s social footprint, with the hearing coming as leading Democratic presidential candidates jostle for attention with proposals on taxes, universal health care and regulation.
‘Drive wages in time’
Several Democrats ripped into the 2017 tax cut signed by President Donald Trump, portraying it as a boon to the rich that has done little to help families still struggling after the 2008 recession.
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon defended the measure for boosting US banks, saying “a more competitive business will drive wages in time”.
Dimon and other CEOs emphasised the industry’s work to support low-income communities and minority-led businesses, as well as to push for greater gender parity in the workforce.
But Dimon got an earful from Democratic California Representative Katie Porter, who asked the JPMorgan chief for “advice” for how a teller could live in California on $35,700 a year.
After essential expenses such as gasoline, rent and child care, she would be down $567 a month, Porter calculated.
“I don’t know,” Dimon said. “I’d have to think about it.”
“Mr Dimon, you make $31 million a year and this is a budget problem you can’t solve,” Porter shot back.