You’ve heard of a fox in a henhouse. How about a French (Hill) in the teller’s cage?
Accountable USA, a watchdog group focusing on corporate benefits from the federal bailout spending, has explored Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill’s role as a member of the CARES Act Oversight Commission. Its duties include overseeing a foreclosure moratorium and consumers’ rights to request forbearance.
Oops. Hill, who owns $5.5 million worth of stock in Simmons First National Corporation thanks to a sale of a bank he once owned to Simmons, is profiting from that bank’s dividends (about $105,000 a year) as it goes about, of course, foreclosing on mortgages. Hills also has scored some $52,000 in campaign contributions from Simmons-connected contributors.
Information compiled by the group said Simmons reported March 31 that it was moving forward with $5.3 million in mortgage foreclosures and was issuing more foreclosure notices as recently as April.
Accountable USA sees as a conflict of interest between Hill’s banking interest and his oversight of $454 billion in lending through the Federal Reserve, some to back loans handled by banks. Simmons makes a variety of government-backed loans. Simmons, for example, handled the $12.4 million SBA loan given to Walter Hussman, publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and owner of a media conglomerate.
Said Accountable US spokesman Derek Martin:
“In the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis, Congressman Hill shouldn’t be lining his own pockets off the misery of Arkansas families who are struggling to keep their homes. Adding insult to injury, Hill sits on a Commission that’s supposed to be overseeing foreclosure protections for vulnerable borrowers. It’s beyond swampy – it’s totally unacceptable. Congressman Hill is simply too conflicted to be trusted with the responsibility of overseeing billions of taxpayer dollars going to banks that are working to take away peoples’ homes. The Congressman can avoid any such conflicts of interest by immediately stepping down from the Oversight Commission.”