Atlantic Philanthropies

Events - Financial Reform

Celebrating Financial Reform: What Happened and What’s Next?

With President Obama’s signature on 21 July 2010, consumer protections were established and regulations were put in place that will provide increased oversight and transparency of the financial sector as a whole. Throughout the campaign for financial reform, progressive advocates (many of them grantees of Atlantic) made sure that the interests of those most impacted by the financial crisis were among those that shaped the financial reform bill, and that their needs were addressed in the final legislation.

In this panel discussion, held in The Atlantic Philanthropies New York City event space on 12 October 2010, four advocates who were active in the campaign for reform looked back on the  issues that created the crisis, the ways in which the campaign mobilized and worked to advocate for reform and, now that it has passed, what opportunities and challenges exist in terms of implementation.

The panel included grassroots leaders and policy experts: Rev. Eugene Barnes, of Metanoia Centers, Inc; Lisa Donner, of Americans for Financial Reform; George Goehl of National People's Action; and Heather McGhee of Demos. Vivien Labaton of The Atlantic Philanthropies moderated. 

The conversation covered some technical issues: the hundreds of studies and implementation plans mandated by the new law, the specifics of issues like executive compensation and the derivatives market. But largely the discussion turned to the bigger picture: the ongoing foreclosure crisis; the continued racial disparities in America's economy; and on the need for social and racial justice advocates to continue working for progressive financial reform policies. "Round One," noted Goehl, "was passing the financial reform bill. Round two is getting banks to clean up their foreclosure mess and keep people in their homes."

For more on the issue, read Vivien Labaton's 26 August 2010 guest-edition of Atlantic Currents, "Celebrating Financial Reform in the U.S. – An Advance for Social Justice," read the panelists' bios, and visit the organisations listed below online.  




Rev. Eugene Barnes, TH.D.

Reverend Eugene Barnes is the Founder/Executive Director of Metanoia Centers. In 1965, two years before graduating from Waukegan Township High, Dr. Barnes took his first steps in community service, with an active role as a youth leader in the local chapter of the NAACP.  Dr. Barnes graduated from Slidell Baptist Seminary in 2001 with a Doctorate of Theology.  He now had a degree that fit his life’s journey – helping people reach their potential.  It was the degree that exemplified his community organizing, such as encouraging social reform, dealing with social injustice, and educating and helping people achieve their God given potential.  Prior to 2001, Dr. Barnes completed an accelerated course of study in Brooklyn, NY through C.I.B.I. (Council of Independent Black Institutions) and taught at an alternative school, Weusi Shule.

He was hired by Xerox Corporation before the completion of his studies for computer technology at Control Data Institute after which, Dr. Barnes had served as Program Manager and Community Outreach Coordinator for Delaware Technical and Community College where he was part of the winning team that won the National Governor’s Award for Best Practices as a national model for motivating high school students to stay in school in the Stay-In-School programs.  He then formed Metanoia Centers in the fall of 2000, claiming the formation of nine (9) other non-profits in Delaware and Illinois.  

After joining Illinois People’s Action in 2001, Metanoia Centers attracted the attention of National City’s CDC and was awarded $369,000 to build homes for low to moderate income families in Champaign,  and matching funds were received through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis and the city of Champaign to began a series of efforts entitled “From Tragedy to Triumph”.  Dr. Barnes became a board member of National People’s Action in 2007 and became board chair in 2008 and was invited by the White House to witness the signing of the historic Financial Reform Bill by President Barak Obama. 

Dr. Barnes has traveled to Israel, Palestine and South Korea as a negotiator for an Ambassador for Peace and as a member of the American Clergy Leadership Conference.  He has won the Delaware state TRIO Outstanding Service award, Wilmington City Council award for New Directions Summer Youth Program, Phyllis K. Washington Outstanding Leadership award, and is listed in the 2000 edition of Who’s Who International Entrepreneurs.

Whether it's big banks and foreclosures, inadequate housing, international injustices or the role of faith in our communities, Dr. Barnes continues to speak out on the issues that will define America in the 21st century. But above all his accomplishments and experiences, he is most proud and grateful for his family: his wife, Sharyne, and his two daughters who are school counselors in Champaign, Illinois and Wichita Kansas.


Lisa Donner

Lisa Donner is the Executive Director of Americans for Financial Reform, having served as Deputy Director during the fist phase of AFR’s work. Prior to this she was the Executive Director of the Half in Ten Campaign, an antipoverty project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and the Coalition on Human Needs.  Earlier, she was the Co-Director of the Center for Working Families, where she developed and promoted policy on fair taxes, work and family, and green jobs. Before Working Families, Lisa was Director of the Financial Justice Center, and Director of Public Policy for ACORN, and an organizer for the Service Employees International Union. She graduated from Harvard University.


George Goehl

George Goehl is the Executive Director for National People’s Action (NPA). National People’s Action, founded in 1972, exists to create a society in which racial and economic justice are realized in all aspects of society, resulting in more equity in work, housing, health, education, finance, and other systems central to our well-being.  A community organizer, strategist, and trainer for 15 years, George has crafted national campaigns on affordable housing, predatory lending, and immigrant justice issues. He began his career as the founding president of the Coalition of the Low-Income and Homeless Citizens, an organization that won the fist Housing Trust Fund in the state of Indiana and the fist Housing Trust Fund campaign in the country run by low-income and homeless people. Then, as an organizer at Blocks Together, a multicultural organization on the Westside of Chicago, George led several successful campaigns to address inequalities in housing, safety and municipal services. George came to National People’s Action for the first time in 1996 and designed a national campaign to pressure HUD to address fraud and abuse within the FHA home loan program.  This three-year organizing effort resulted in the Credit Watch Program, which holds lenders accountable for excessive defaults on FHA-insured mortgages.  Later, as organizing director, George supervised the team that forced statewide anti-predatory lending regulations and legislation in Illinois.  In 2004, George moved to the Center for Community Change to work as a strategist and field organizer for the organization’s Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM). His work there included the launch of a national summit of immigrant and allied organizations from more than 30 states, and culminated in the implementation of the national “Stop the Raids” movement, in response to a wave of immigration raids that separated young children from their parents.  Returning to National People’s Action in 2007 as the third executive director in its 35 year history, George has led the organization through a forward thinking reorganization and transformation. As a result, the organization has significantly expanded its affiliate base, built a new and talented staff team and opened the organization’s first Washington DC office.  George lives in Chicago, with his wife, Julienne, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


Heather McGhee

Heather McGhee is Director of the Washington office of Demos, a non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization. Heather’s writing and research on debt, financial services regulation, retirement and inequality have appeared in numerous outlets, including The American Prospect, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Detroit Free-Press, TIME, the New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC and CNN.  In Heather was the Chair of the Systemic Risk and Resolution Authority Policy Task Force for the Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) coalition, providing expertise on issues ranging from “Too Big to Fail” financial institutions to the “Volcker Rule.” Previously, she was the Deputy Policy Director for Domestic and Economic Policy in the John Edwards for President 2008 campaign.  She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Yale University and a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law.

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