Legislative Branch

Guide to Senate Records: Chapter 5

Records of the Committee on Banking and Currency

Committee records discussed in this chapter:

History and Jurisdiction

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Letter from Self-Described Widow to Ferdinand Pecora, ca. 1933 (SEN 73A-F3). RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives.

5.1 The Committee on Banking and Currency was established March 15, 1913, during a special session of the 63d Congress, to have jurisdiction over banking and currency legislation, matters previously handled by the Committee on Finance. The Banking and Currency Committee's first chairman, Robert L. Owen, obtained, after some acrimonious debate, authorization to investigate banking conditions (S. Res. 66) and funding for a clerk (S. Res. 67). Senator Owen was instrumental in securing passage of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and thereby establishing Banking and Currency as a major standing committee of the Senate.

5.2 On several occasions before the 63d Congress, the Senate had appointed select committees to consider specific measures relating to banking and currency matters. One such select committee for which some records have been preserved is the Select Committee on the Memorial of the President, Directors, and Company of the Bank of the United States (22d Cong.), which was appointed in 1832 to consider the bank's request for renewal of its charter. Other select committees on banking activities for which unpublished records have survived are the Select Committee on Banks in the District of Columbia (35th Cong.) and the Select Committee on National Banks (53d-60th Congresses).

5.3 On October 26, 1970, as part of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 (Public Law 91-510), Senate Rule XXV was modified to assign jurisdiction over urban affairs generally to the Banking and Currency Committee, which was then renamed the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

5.4 No comprehensive history of the Committee on Banking and Currency has been published. The committee has published Committee on Banking and Currency, United States Senate: 50th Anniversary (S. Doc. 15, 88th Cong., 1st sess., Serial 12550), which lists the membership of the committee and its subcommittees, 1913-63, legislative and executive activities, 1931-63, and other information, but does not contain any narrative. A History of the Committee on Finance (S. Doc. 57, 91st Cong., 2d sess., Serial 12887) discusses briefly the Finance Committee's role in early banking legislation and on the establishment of the Banking and Currency Committee.

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Records of the Committee on Banking and Currency, 63rd-79th Congresses (1913-1946)

5.5 There are three series of records of the Committee on Banking and Currency for this period: Committee papers (108 ft.), petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures that were referred to the committee (4 ft.), and minutes of committee meetings, 1927-1946 (1 ft., incl. 7 vols.). Legislative case files for bills and resolutions referred to the committee through 1946 are located in the series of papers supporting specific bills and resolutions, which includes such records for all Senate committees. There are no committee papers for the 66th and 68th Congresses, and nearly two-thirds (71 ft.) of the committee's records for this entire period were created or obtained under subpoena by committee lawyers and investigators for the so-called Pecora Committee investigation of stock exchange practices, 1932-34 (73A-F3).

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Subpoena of J. P. Morgan to Appear Before the Senate Banking and Currency Committee on May 23, 1933 (SEN73A-F3). RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives.

5.6 Generally referred to by the name of the fourth and final counsel to the committee for this investigation, Ferdinand Pecora, the Pecora Committee was created on March 4, 1932, with approval of S. Res. 84, 72d Cong. Chaired by Peter Norbeck in the 72d Congress and Duncan U. Fletcher in the 73d, its first two counsels were fired and a third resigned after the committee refused to give him broad subpoena powers. Pecora, an assistant district attorney for New York County, discovered, upon taking the committee counsel position, that the investigation was incomplete.

5.7 The records include correspondence, investigators' reports, and photostats of company records obtained voluntarily or under subpoena, arranged by subject of investigation. Among those businesses or subjects investigated were National City Bank and its investment affiliate, National City Company; J.P. Morgan and Company; Kuhn, Loeb, and Company; Chase National Bank and its Chase Securities Corporation; Dillon, Read, and Company; Cities Service Company; banking institutions in Detroit and Cleveland; and aviation stocks. Because the investment bankers' influence touched so many industries, records of other companies are also found in these files. The records also include completed questionnaires sent by the Pecora Committee, as part of its investigation of the New York Stock Exchange, to 1,375 exchange members and special questionnaires for the exchange itself. A detailed unpublished index to the Pecora Committee records accompanies the records.

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Letter from self-described destitute old woman to Senator Duncan Fletcher in October 1933 (SEN73A-F3). RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives.

5.8 Other committee papers include correspondence files, arranged by subject, of the committee during the chairmanships of Duncan U. Fletcher, 1935-36 (74A-F3, 6 ft.), and Robert F. Wagner, 1937-40, 1943-46 (75A-F3, 76A-F3, 78A-F4, 79A-F3, 8 ft.). Fletcher's files contain substantial unpublished information about the Banking Act of 1935. The records also include a number of typed or near-print reports of Federal agencies under the committee's jurisdiction, including the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), which was required to submit monthly reports on loans made, 1933-46 (73d-79th Congresses), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which made studies of dealer-broker relationships, over-the-counter stock trading, and other subjects that were not regulated by the SEC under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 (74A-F3). Also among the committee papers is an unpublished transcript of a hearing on an extension of rent control, July 2, 1946 (79A-F3). The remainder of the committee papers consist of Presidential messages and executive reports from the Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Reserve Board, and Federal agencies concerned with banking, credit, and housing.

5.9 Petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the committee during the 1910's and 1920's concern rural credit legislation and institutions such as the Federal Farm Loan Bank (63A-J3, 64A-J12, 66A-J3, 67A-J9) and farmer opposition to executive nominations to the Federal Farm Loan Board (68A-J10, 70A-J3); opposition to branch banking (64A-J12, 67A-J12); suggestions for amending the Federal Reserve Act (63A-J4, 66A-J3); a State tax on nationally chartered banks (71A-J14); and opposition to a proposal regulating stock exchanges by preventing fraudulent use of the mails (63A-J4).

5.10 As the Great Depression worsened in the 1930's, the farmers' main interest no longer was farm loans, but rather a moratorium to prevent foreclosures on their mortgages (72A-J8, 72A-J12, 73A-J9). The committee was one of several that received please for unemployment relief through public works (72A-J9). Other petitions and memorials supported revaluation of the dollar (72A-J11), dropping the gold standard (72A-J12), and even a Federal takeover of the banking system (73A-J9). As late as 1940, elements of the public supported Federal control of the value of money and abolition of the privately owned Federal Reserve System (75A-J3). Bankers objected to the practice of publishing public notice of Reconstruction Finance Corporation loans (72A-J10), and stock brokers and business organizations opposed regulation of the stock market proposed in the Fletcher-Rayburn bill (73A-J8).

5.11 During and immediately following World War II, the petitions, memorials, and resolutions emphasize the need for price and rent controls and gasoline rationing (77A-J3, 78A-J3), support for the actions of the Office of Price Administration (78A-J3, 79A-J3), continuation of low-interest farm loans (77A-J3), support for the Bretton Woods Agreement (79A-J3), and opposition to a proposed $4 billion loan to postwar Great Britain (79A-J3).

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Records of the Committee on Banking and Currency, 80th-90th Congresses (1947-1968)

5.12 In 1947, the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency was responsible for legislation and other matters relating to banking and currency generally; financial aid to commerce and industry, other than matters relating to such aid that were specifically assigned to other committees; deposit insurance; public and private housing; the Federal Reserve System; gold and silver, including their coinage; issuance and redemption of notes; valuation and revaluation of the dollar; and control of prices of commodities, rents, and services. Since then, the jurisdiction of the committee has expanded to include economic stabilization and defense production, export and foreign trade promotion, export controls, Federal monetary policy, renegotiation of Government contracts, nursing home construction, and urban development and mass transit.

5.13 The committee has divided these diverse responsibilities among several subcommittees, but with few exceptions (such as Housing, Small Business, Financial Institutions, and certain investigative subcommittees), the records are not arranged by subcommittee but rather are incorporated into the files of the full committee.

5.14 Records documenting committee action on legislative proposals concerning the subjects within the purview of the committee are located in the series legislative case files ("accompanying papers"), 1947-68 (112 ft.). The records include copies of printed bills; amendments; committee prints, such as those comparing House and Senate versions of bills; correspondence, chiefly from appropriate Federal agencies commenting formally on proposed legislation; and hearing transcripts, including those of executive as well as public sessions. Often several bills on related subjects will be dealt with in a single hearing and, if so, each bill`s file contains a cross-reference to the legislative case file in which the hearing transcript can be found. Related to the legislative case files are printed Public Laws and bills, 1949-58 and 1963-68 (13 ft.), with related pages from the Congressional Record. This type of printed material is normally found within legislative case files, but not in the records of this committee.

5.15 In addition to those in legislative case files, transcripts of public hearings and executive sessions, 1947-68 (62 ft.), are also maintained as a separate series. Many of the transcripts document hearings of investigative subcommittees and include testimony on such matters as temporary regulation and control of consumer credit and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (both 80th Cong.), export controls (82d Cong.), a coffee price increase and Illinois banking problems (both 84th Cong.), among other subjects. Transcripts of standing subcommittee hearings and executive sessions relating to specific bills are also available here. For some Congresses, the transcripts are arranged by subject and thereunder chronologically; for others, the public transcripts and executive session transcripts are maintained separately and arranged chronologically within each group. Of a similar, but briefer, nature are minutes of executive sessions, 1947-53 (6 in., incl. 1 vol.), of the committee and several of its subcommittees.

5.16 The committee's general correspondence, 1947-68 (132 ft.), comprises a central subject file for banking, currency, housing, credit, small business, and international finance matters referred to or of interest to its chairman and members (115 ft.), and alphabetical and chronological reading files, consisting of copies of outgoing letters, 1949-68 (17 ft.).

5.17 Usually the Senate Banking and Currency Committee investigated problems by forming special investigative subcommittees. When the committee studied the 1954 rise in stock market prices, however, it did so as a full committee under Chairman J. William Fulbright's personal direction. The committee was concerned, in particular, with margin buying, speculation, proxy voting, investment advisors, large institutional investors such as pension funds, and with applying existing regulations to dealing in over-the-counter stocks. Records of the investigation of stock market prices, January-May 1955 (26 ft.), include correspondence; subject files; 1,200 replies to questionnaires sent to brokers, stock exchange officials, and economists; legislative files on Fulbright's bill, S. 2054, and Homer Capehart's proposal, S. 879; and summaries of hearings. Copies of the hearing transcripts are located in the hearing transcripts series described above, and most, if not all, were printed.

5.18 Presidential messages and executive communications referred to the committee, 1947-68 (19 ft.), consist of original Presidential messages and original or copies of executive agency reports prepared for Congress. Among the latter are statutorily mandated reports—such as annual reports of the Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Federal Housing Administration—as well as reports specifically requested by the Senate, such as the Federal Trade Commission's report on its investigation of coffee prices, June 30, 1954 (83d Cong.). For most Congresses, the records include a list of all documents referred to the committee. Petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures, 1947-68 (1 ft.), are among the papers referred to the committee.

5.19 Nomination files, 1947-64 (9 ft.), consist chiefly of transcripts of hearings on the President's nominees to certain positions in the Department of the Treasury, housing agencies, credit boards, and the Federal Reserve Board. The files also may include nomination reference and report forms, brief biographies, and correspondence relating to the nomination. Among the largest of these files are those of Thomas Bayard McCabe, nominated to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (80th Cong.), and of Robert Weaver, nominated to be administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency (87th Cong.).

5.20 The records of the committee also include confidential administrative and financial records, 1953-68 (9 ft.), consisting principally of expense vouchers of various investigative subcommittees, office personnel records, and notices of committee meetings.

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Records of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, 1970-1984
Records of the Committee on Banking and Currency, 1969-1970

5.29 Some of the records for the 91st Congress are intermixed with the pre-1969 records. For the 92nd-94th Congresses, the records include legislative case files, general correspondence, alphabetical reading files that serve as a name index to other series, and executive communications. For the 95th-98th Congresses, the records consist of legislative files and executive communications.

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Records of Subcommittees of the Committee on Banking and Currency

5.21 There are independent series of records of three standing subcommittees and four investigative subcommittees of the Banking and Currency Committee. While the committee has completed many such investigations, the records of only these four, one in the 80th Congress and three in the 83d Congress, have been preserved as distinct series. Records of these investigations also appear in the hearings transcripts and administrative records described above. Records of other such investigative subcommittees may also appear among the records of the full committee.

Subcommittee on Housing (and Urban Affairs)

5.22 The Housing Subcommittee's general correspondence, 1957-68 (46 ft.), is arranged by subject and includes alphabetical and chronological reading files (85th-90th Congresses). In addition, there are fragments relating to S. 2246, 81st Cong., which became the Housing Act of 1949, and to Alaskan housing, 1954. John Sparkman of Arkansas was chairman of the subcommittee, 1957-68.

Subcommittee on Small Business

5.23 Records of the subcommittee maintained separately from the records of the full committee include general correspondence, 1949-50 (5 in.), accumulated during the chairmanship of Burnet R. Maybank of South Carolina, and legislative case files, 1958-68 (6ft.), during the chairmanships of Joseph S. Clark of Pennsylvania (1958), William Proxmire of Wisconsin (1959-66), and Thomas J. McIntyre of New Hampshire (1967-68).

Subcommittee on Financial Institutions

5.24 The records of the Financial Institutions Subcommittee include truth-in-lending research files, 1963-68 (12 ft.), which consist of subject files of correspondence with prospective witnesses, newsclippings, and hearing statements; staff memorandums and notes; and materials assembled in preparation for hearings and conference committees. The files document the efforts of Senators Paul Douglas, a member of the subcommittee, and William Proxmire, chairman (1967-68), to obtain a Federal law regulating the consumer credit industry, culminating in the enactment of S. 5, the Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968 (Public Law 90-321).

Subcommittee to Investigate Operations of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) and Its Subsidiaries

5.25 The records, June 1947-May 1948 (6 ft.), document the first postwar inquiry into the continued viability and need for the RFC. The resolutions to undertake the investigation (S. Res. 132 and S. Res. 203, 80th Cong.) were introduced by Clayton D. Buck, who chaired the subcommittee. The records include staff reports, correspondence with Government agencies, material relating to questionnaires sent to banks and RFC loan agency advisory committees, case studies of particular loans, and administrative records of the subcommittee. The subcommittee recommended that the RFC be extended for 8 years.

Subcommittee to Investigate the Export-Import Bank and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)

5.26 Pursuant to S. Res. 25 and S. Res. 183, 83d Cong., which were introduced by Homer Capehart for himself and Senator Burnet R. Maybank, the Senate established and then continued an investigation of the curtailment of Export-Import Bank operations. The resolution was amended to expand the study to include the IBRD and the relationship of these two institutions to the expansion of international trade. Capehart and four colleagues toured 15 Latin American countries and upon their return held hearings and introduced S. 3589 to make the Export-Import Bank more aggressive in promoting international trade. The records, 1953-54 (9 ft.), include some correspondence and material relating to the trip to Latin America and the hearings, but most are copies of publications accumulated for reference purposes. The hearing transcripts are located in the hearing transcripts for the 83d Congress.

Subcommittee to Investigate Coffee Prices

5.27 Pursuant to S. Res. 195, 83rd Cong., an investigation was initiated by Senator J. Glenn Beall of Maryland to ascertain if the coffee market was being manipulated by the Coffee and Sugar Exchange to produce the rapid rise in coffee prices during 1953. The records, January-October 1954 (3ft.) include correspondence, copies of hearing transcripts, and reference material; additional hearing transcripts and administrative records are located in those respective series.

Subcommittee to Investigate the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)

5.28 The most detailed documentation of any of the post-World War II investigations between 1947 and 1968 is in the records, April-December 1954 (53 ft.) of this subcommittee. Senator Capehart introduced S. Res. 229, 83rd Cong., following charges of racketeering in the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) home repair loan insurance program and potential illegal or unethical actions in the FHA Section 608 rental housing insurance program. The charges and subsequent investigation led to the firing of several FHA managers and uncovered substantial windfall profits to developers and builders. The records include hearing transcripts, including many "special interviews" conducted in executive session: two incomplete correspondence files arranged by subject and by name of witness; copes of FHA mortgage insurance case files on the projects investigated; and miscellaneous material. The records are poorly organized, and duplication exists. Again, the hearing transcripts and administrative records series contain additional records of this subcommittee.

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Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1989.

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