NEW YORK (AP) — CEOs of the nation’s biggest banks returned to Capitol Hill for a second day Thursday, with Senate Democrats urging them to do more to help and protect their customers, while Republicans questioned whether banks should weigh burning issues. social issues button.

Bank leaders spoke at a time when prices for food and other essential goods are at their highest in decades. Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Jane Fraser of Citigroup and five other executives repeated the message they told a House panel Wednesday: The U.S. consumer is in relatively good shape, but faces threats from high inflation and rising interest rates.

The senators’ initial comments reflected lingering populist anger on Wall Street more than a decade after the financial crisis and the looming election.

“You are one of the most powerful entities in our economy,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, R-Ohio and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. “Your entire industry and its substantial safety net is supported by the American taxpayer. The time has come for the financial industry to be as good to the American people as the country has been to you.”

While the CEOs were seen as hearings on day-to-day finances and industry oversight, they also got a heavy dose of politics in an election year for both houses of Congress.

“Ms. Fraser, it’s great to see you because you’re the only diversity we’ve seen in this industry,” said Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey.

Menendez focused on overdraft fees, acknowledging that banks have made progress in reducing them, but also pushing CEOs to eliminate such fees altogether. Most CEOs said they do not typically offer overdraft fees now and expect overdraft fee revenue to continue to decline. Bank of America recently said its overdraft revenue fell 90% year over year.

One of the more contentious discussions involved Zelle, a private peer-to-peer payment network owned by banks. Zelle has come under scrutiny due to increasing complaints that bank customers are unknowingly authorizing payments to fraudsters through Zelle and not being able to get their funds back. In contrast, fraud and credit card fraud are usually covered by credit card companies.

Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., pressed banks on Zele’s security. Recognizing that there were ways to improve Zelle, the CEOs tried to differentiate Zelle from other peer-to-peer payment networks. Executives said that services like Cash App, Venmo or PayPal have far more fraud than Zelle.

“The problem is when a customer authorizes a transaction and it later turns out to be a scam, banks shouldn’t be on the hook for that,” said Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America. He also said that fraud is a very small percentage of transactions that happen through Zelle.

Republicans have focused on social issues, including banks deciding to pay for employee abortions, gun rights and financing the oil and gas industry. Several senators also mentioned the influence that large asset managers like BlackRock and Vanguard have on corporations with regard to social policy, because asset managers are often the largest individual shareholders of many of these companies.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Sherrod Brown, R-Ohio, left, speaks with senior Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, during the annual Wall Street Oversight Hearing Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. .

“I can’t help but notice that when banks are dealing with important social and political issues, they always seem to be on the liberal side,” said Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the committee. .

Dimon appeared to agree with Toomey’s contention that federal regulators, as well as asset managers, have the power to influence banks on issues such as climate change or lending to oil and gas companies.

“Speaking for myself, (regulators) are my judge, my jury and my executioner,” Dimon said. “They can do whatever they want if you don’t restrict them,” referring to Congress.

Asked about asset managers, Dimon quipped: “It’s causing a lot of consternation among companies.”

The CEOs of Wall Street’s major megabanks were joined by the CEOs of three regional banking giants: US Bank, Truist and PNC Financial. The three banks, with more than $500 billion in assets, appeared before the House and Senate for the first time.

Regional banks have been consolidating and growing rapidly, prompting some top Democrats in Congress to question whether they should be more tightly regulated like “too-big-to-fail” banks like JPMorgan and Citi.

“They’re more like Wall Street than Main Street these days,” Brown told reporters after the hearing. His House counterpart — Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. — also called for tighter oversight of regionals.

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