Barney Frank, the first openly gay U.S. Representative, has long been considered a modern-day culture warrior.
But Frank hasn’t spent 22 years in Congress dealing exclusively with social issues – he served on the House Banking Committee from his first days in office, and was the committee’s Chairman from 2007 to 2011.
American Banker recently gave Barney Frank a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his bipartisan efforts to promote the health of the American financial system.
The accolades Frank receives from across the aisle are rare in today’s polarised political climate. Former Republican Representative Mike Oxley was highly complimentary of Frank, his colleague on the House committee, particularly regarding their joint effort to extend the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan Chase CEO, also sings Frank’s praises, declaring, “On a scale of 1 to 10, he’s a 10. In terms of knowledge, brains, understanding—he’s way up there.”
Both Oxley and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson reject the most common criticism of Frank: that he blocked reforms of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which might have otherwise mitigated the housing bubble. In fact, Paulson believes nothing could be further from the truth, saying “I didn’t sense he was doing anything to carry water for Fannie and Freddie. He was thinking about what’s best for the United States of America and he knew Fannie and Freddie needed to be reformed.”
Frank is also credited for his role in selling TARP to Democrats. Though a politically unpopular piece of legislation, TARP helped prevent the ill effects of the financial crisis from reverberating across markets.
The enduring legacy Frank leaves behind is the Dodd-Frank Act, which issues new banking regulations in light of the financial crisis. Ben Bernanke, for one, applauds Barney’s work on the law:
From American Banker:
“In particular, it achieves the key objectives of strengthening oversight of large financial institutions, closing gaps that existed in the financial oversight, creating a financial stability council, finding ways to liquidate systemically important firms and generally strengthening the financial system against further shocks. All those things were components of the bill and Frank was engaged across the range of different topics there.”
Frank plans to retire at the end of his term in early 2013. With his extensive history of public service and expertise in dealing with the financial industry, maybe it’s time to consider him as a dark horse pick for Treasury Secretary.