A bank whistle-blower is seeking a more powerful position from which to hold too-big-to-fail companies accountable.
Everett Stern, a former HSBC employee who last summer called for fresh investigations into the company's money-laundering controls, has launched a bid for Congress. Stern is campaigning to be the Republican nominee for the seat in Pennsylvania's 13th district, which spans the northern suburbs of Philadelphia.
Incumbent Allyson Schwartz plans to give up the seat as she seeks to become the state's governor. Stern is currently raising money and gathering signatures to have his name on the ballot for the Republican primary in May.
"These banks are going to have a real problem when I get into office," Stern said. "It's going to be funny when the whistle-blower is sitting there as a congressman."
Stern, who worked in HSBC Bank USAs anti-money-laundering division in 2010 and 2011, filed a lawsuit last year asking federal regulators to investigate whether the bank continued to violate money-laundering rules after the period covered by the bank's record settlement.
Stern's campaign is rooted in his frustration that the government has not taken stronger action against banks that have violated the law. Beyond that, Stern sees banking scandals as a symptom of widespread apathy that he hopes to battle as a member of Congress.
"HSBC's story is not just about HSBC. It's about people not caring and the government not caring," he said.
Stern decided to seek office this past fall, after he met with Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, to discuss his claims.
Waters later introduced legislation that would make bank executives personally liable for anti-money-laundering violations. But Stern was disappointed, feeling that the bill has little chance of becoming law and that Waters should have pushed for congressional hearings about his claims.
Stern knows that, with his financial constraints, he faces a tough job getting elected. At least three other candidates are seeking the Republican Party's nomination to take the seat, and the Democratic candidates are led by Marjorie Margolies, a former member of Congress whose son is married to Chelsea Clinton. It is a "safe" Democratic seat for 2014 , according to the Rothenberg Political Report / Roll Call, an election-analysis website.
Yet he sees his outsider status as a potential benefit. Without a campaign staff, he has been working long hours to gather signatures and meet potential voters, in addition to working for the business-intelligence firm he founded, Tactical Rabbit.
"I'm hoping that American people see my sincerity and say, 'He's the real deal,'" he says. "I'm ending the [expletive]."