Warren tells bankers rules can help them

By Daniel Wagner
Associated Press / September 30, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Obama consumer finance adviser Elizabeth Warren took a conciliatory tone with bank executives yesterday, asking them to work with her on new disclosures that will make credit cards fairer and easier to understand.

In her first major speech since being tapped to help set up a new consumer finance regulator, Warren argued that the agency can help banks by clarifying what regulators expect of them. She said better oversight can help consumers make good choices, and push companies to compete on price and quality rather than using hidden fees.

“Good regulations can create an opportunity for good businesses to thrive,’’ Warren told about 400 bankers gathered in Washington for a dinner organized by the Financial Services Roundtable. In prepared remarks, she said the new regulator’s purpose is to create “a level playing field where the best products at the best prices win.’’

Warren also addressed a question on many attendees’ minds: How would she work with an industry that fought against the agency’s creation, and tried to block her from running it?

“I have not kept my opinions to myself about where I think the financial industry has gone wrong. And I notice some of you have not kept your opinions to yourself about me,’’ she said.

Warren went on to say that her views are not all that different from those of many bankers. She said banks suffer from competition with less-regulated lenders, and that the agency’s rules would apply to all companies and thus level the playing field.

“We have a remarkable chance to put aside misconceptions and preconceptions — whether they are yours or mine,’’ Warren said. Later, she said, “I’m here to ask you to work with me.’’

She said the alternative to collaboration was a topdown approach in which regulators continue adding new rules without considering how they affect banks.