Warren Calls on Big Banks to Disclose Policy Group Contributions

Senator Elizabeth Warren called on Wall Street banks to disclose their financial contributions to organizations that aim to influence policy, saying a lack of transparency threatens to undermine the groups’ credibility.

“If the information provided by think tanks is little more than another form of corporate lobbying, then policymakers and the public should be aware of the difference,” Warren wrote yesterday in a letter to the chief executive officers of JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co, Bank of America Corp., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc. and Morgan Stanley.

Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, has been critical of the biggest U.S. banks since taking office this year and before that in her role shaping the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Her letter to the bank executives came a day after executives of Third Way, a Washington-based policy research group, criticized her “economic populism” in a Wall Street Journal opinion column.

Banks aren’t required to disclose contributions to policy groups, which they often use for research, Warren said in her letter. She called on the executives to set a new standard by making voluntary disclosures.

“Your institutions have every right under the law to give financial support to think tanks, and think tanks have every right to accept that support,” Warren wrote. “But just as there is transparency around your direct efforts to influence policymaking through lobbying, the same transparency should exist for any indirect efforts you make to influence policymaking through financial contributions to think thanks.”

Third Way is a research group aligned with Democrats that says it promotes public policies that can attract bipartisan support. It has received corporate funding from firms including Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch unit, according to the Center for Media and Democracy’s Sourcewatch.

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