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Oklahoma native now Massachusetts senator begins living up to vow of taking on banks, regulators

Like most freshman lawmakers, the Massachusetts Democrat and Oklahoma native has maintained a low profile during her first few months in office. That's starting to change.
By ANDREW MIGA Published: March 9, 2013
/articleid/3764000/1/pictures/1976783">Photo - Sen. Elizabeth Warren D-Mass.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren D-Mass.

Consumer advocate

“She is as advertised,” said James Ballentine, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association. “She came in and concentrated on being a strong advocate for consumers, and has certainly done that and a little more.”

During her Senate bid last year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned that “no other candidate in 2012 represents a greater threat to free enterprise” than Warren.

Jim Nuzzo, a Boston-based Republican political analyst, said Warren as a senator has tempered the brash style she had as a consumer activist. “The Senate has show horses and war horses,” he said. “She's made a very smart decision that she's going to play the war horse.”

Not showboating

Warren also has been wise to shun much of the national press after her election, Nuzzo said, and instead use banking hearings to deliver her message and avoid accusations that she's showboating.

The financial collapse in 2008 and subsequent federal bailout plus a string of hearings on the lax oversight and high-risk investment practices that led to it stoked public anger. Liberal groups flocked to Warren's Senate campaign for the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's old seat.

The HSBC settlement was the largest penalty ever imposed on a bank. But the U.S. stopped short of charging executives, citing the bank's immediate, full cooperation and the damage that an assault on the giant company might cause on economies and people, including thousands who would lose jobs if the bank collapsed.

Critics like Warren see the settlement as evidence that a doctrine of “too big to fail” or at least “too big to prosecute” is still operating long after the 2008 financial crisis.


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