Bank CEOs return to testify in front of divided Congress

WASHINGTON — The chief executives of the nation’s largest banks are back in front of Congress, where they are likely to face another round of questioning reflecting the deep partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans.

The House’s hearing Thursday comes after senators on Wednesday questioned the six CEOs on topics ranging from climate change, voting rights to racial inequities.

It is is the second hearing Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California and chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, has held since Democrats took control of the House in 2019. In the earlier hearing, many of the same CEOs were questioned about their commitments to diversity and about the fees they charge customers.

The chief executives of JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are appearing via video for the hearing, as they did for the Senate hearing. One new face in front of Congress compared to 2019 is Jane Fraser, the new CEO of Citigroup and the first woman to run a Wall Street firm.

The CEOs are appearing as the U.S. economy is recovering from the recession triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. Big banks’ profits surged in the first three months of this year as the recovery has taken hold. They were able to release billions of dollars from their reserves originally set aside in the early days of the pandemic last year for potential losses on their loans.

The banking industry, which was blamed for the Great Recession more than a decade ago, has spent most of 2020 and this year stressing its efforts to work with borrowers and businesses. Banks across the country waived fees and put millions of mortgages into forbearance to shore up Americans’ distressed finances in the pandemic.