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Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) vigorously defended herself at a Friday morning press conference with reporters where she addressed charges that she has violated House ethics rules. The charges stem from a 2008 meeting that Waters arranged between Treasury Department officials and the National Bankers Association, a trade group that represents minority banks.
Waters did not attend the meeting and OneUnited Bank (No. 2 on the BE 100 Banks list with $549.6 million in assets), a company on whose board her husband Sidney Willams served from 2004 to 2008, and in which he holds stock, appears to be the only NBA bank to have benefited from it. It received $12 million in TARP aid three months after the meeting.
During the press conference, Waters denied that she has violated any House rules or that she or her staff engaged in “improper behavior.” In fact, she said, she only reached out to then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson because the agency failed to respond to NBA’s request for a meeting.
“The question at this point should not be why I called Secretary Paulson but why I had to. It should be why a trade association representing over 100 minority banks could not get a meeting at the height of the crisis,” Waters said. “I did not suggest any solution or ask for any favors. I did not ask for a meting for any individual bank, including OneUnited Bank. I did not suggest who would be participants at that meeting. I did not attend that meeting. And there was no such thing as TARP at that time.”
Waters also commented on recent news articles criticizing her for her role in creating the provision for an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion in recently passed Wall Street reform legislation, pointing specifically to the Wall Street Journal for publishing what she described as a “scathing attack” on it. Waters argued that she fought for the provision to ensure a fair process for hiring and contracting with minorities and women in the financial industry, adding that minority automobile dealers, financial services firms, and broadcasters are often left out of government contracting and other opportunities. “This is what I do and consider part of my responsibility as a legislator and a member of Congress,” she said.