Biden's banking ties may be barrier for candidacy

NEW YORK • During a meeting with consumer advocates in Washington in July 2010, US Vice-President Joe Biden praised the Obama administration's progress on reforms it had long sought while offering pointed words about the practices of lenders and banks.

"Credit card companies," Mr Biden said, "can't continue to trap consumers with hidden fees or retroactive rate increases". Not mentioned were his own history with the financial services industry, an economic power in his home state of Delaware, or the critics who saw him as too close to credit card firms in more than three decades in the Senate.

But if Mr Biden decides to run for the Democratic presidential nomination, his Senate reputation as a friend to financial institutions could be a significant obstacle.

His friends and allies say his record of support for financial services companies was inevitable. "When you are a senator from a state with a lot of credit card and financial interests, you have a different constituency than when you are vice-president," said Mr Jared Bernstein, who served as Mr Biden's chief economist and economic adviser during his first term.

As vice-president, Mr Biden led the Middle Class Task Force, which sponsored the meeting five years ago on consumer protection issues.

His spokesman Stephen Spector cited Mr Biden's support for the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, intended to protect consumers from unfair billing practices, and the Dodd-Frank Act, the 2010 financial overhaul legislation that provided new consumer safeguards and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

It is Mr Biden's record in the Senate, however, that poses a potential obstacle for his candidacy.

In the late 1990s, amid a rise in bankruptcy filings, the financial services industry began pushing for rules that would make it more difficult for consumers to seek bankruptcy protection. Among those courted by the industry was Mr Biden, who represented the home state of some vested companies including, at the time, credit card issuer MBNA Corp.

The debate went on for many years in Congress, with Mr Biden ultimately, along with 73 others, voting for the version of the Bill that passed the Senate in 2005. NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2015, with the headline 'Biden's banking ties may be barrier for candidacy'. Print Edition | Subscribe