Congresswoman Maxine Waters in hot water, corruption issues
Top federal regulators say they were taken aback when they learned that a California congresswoman who helped set up a meeting with bankers last year had family financial ties to a bank whose chief executive asked them for up to $50 million in special bailout funds.
Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, requested the September meeting on behalf of executives at OneUnited, one of the nation’s largest black-owned banks. Ms. Waters’s husband, Sidney Williams, had served on the bank’s board until early last year and has owned at least $250,000 of its stock.
Treasury officials said the session with nearly a dozen senior banking regulators was intended to allow minority-owned banks and their trade association to discuss the losses they had incurred from the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But Kevin Cohee, OneUnited’s chief executive, instead seized the opportunity to plead for special assistance for his bank, federal officials said.
“Here you had a tiny community bank that comes in and they are not proposing a broader policy — they were asking for help for themselves,” said Stephen Lineberry, a former Treasury aide who attended the meeting. “I don’t remember that ever happening before.”
Ms. Waters declined on Tuesday to comment on the meeting, or to say whether her husband still owned shares of OneUnited. Her staff released two letters that showed the meeting had been initially called to discuss industry concerns broadly.
Ms. Waters, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, did not disclose her ties to OneUnited to Treasury officials, who said they learned of them only later.
“It is upsetting to me,” said Jeb Mason, the deputy assistant secretary for business affairs at Treasury during the Bush administration, whose office helped set up the meeting. “This is something that was potentially politically explosive and embarrassing to the administration. They should have at least let us know.” . . . .