Bank CEOs describe support for pandemic; senators divided on issues | national news


By KEN SWEET and MARCY GORDON AP Business Writers

WASHINGTON (AP) – Eager to expose their support for consumers and small businesses struggling in the pandemic, the CEOs of America’s six largest banks appeared before Congress on Wednesday. But lawmakers focused more during a Senate hearing on the controversial social and political issues dividing the country.

Climate change, the franchise and racial inequity fueled debate and questioning of leaders during a hearing by the Senate Banking Committee, as Democrats demanded that Wall Street powers do more to help troubled minority communities and Republicans warned against promoting social activism through banking practices.

“Profits have gone up, stock prices have skyrocketed, your own pay is stratospheric – but workers are getting a smaller and smaller share of the wealth they create and they are working harder than ever,” said the Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the chairman committee, told CEOs. “We have a racial wealth and income gap that has barely budged since we passed the Civil Rights Act. … In a pandemic where half a million Americans have died and we have had the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression, Wall Street has still made record profits.

“Show us that you’re going to use your positions to change the Wall Street system, make our economy work for everyone – not just CEOs and the rich.”

Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, the lead Republican on the panel, said the banking sector has shown remarkable resilience during the pandemic recession. He echoed an idea with growing cultural currency among conservatives, expressing concern over increasing pressure on banks “to embrace revival” and to promote social activism through their policies.

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