Meeks: Fintech Companies Have 'Work to Do' on Diversity

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WASHINGTON — Online lenders have to make diversity efforts before they can be viewed as champions of economic justice, said Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., during a Friday panel on fintech held during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual legislative conference.

"We've still got work to do," said Meeks, a member of the House Financial Services Committee. "You want to make sure that they're hiring the people of color and lending to the people of color," he said. The Congressional Black Caucus aims to "make sure that we have people on these boards who makes decisions on what the policies are."

Meeks, who spoke after a presentation by online lender Kabbage, also acknowledged that fintech companies could play an important role in expanding access to business loans to minorities.

"We can't be equal if somebody else has all the money and I don't have any," Meeks said. "This is the time to find out innovative ways to level the playing field."

The lawmaker also accused banks of denying minorities access to capital, and called for adapting consumer protection standards to today's financial services industry.

"What we have found especially post the 2008 financial crisis is that communities of color and their access to capital have been limited because banks, to a large degree, have put us out," he said. "We got to change the [Community Reinvestment Act] to make it more effective today. It was good 20 years ago," but now "it's not doing what it was intended to do."

Other companies that presented at the panel were PayPal, OnDeck and Regions Bank.

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