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Ranking Member Waters Leads Committee Democrats on Silicon Valley Trip to Meet with OpenAI, Apple, Entrepreneurs and Investors of Color, Regulators, and Berkeley AI Research Lab


Last week, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee led Committee Democrats, including Representatives Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Juan Vargas (D-CA), and Steven Horsford (D-NV) on a trip to Silicon Valley, California to explore the intersection of Artificial Intelligence (AI), tech, and financial services, and to better understand how venture capital firms are funding entrepreneurs of color. During the visit, Committee Democrats participated in various meetings with different companies and groups, including Apple, OpenAI, venture capital firms who fund diverse innovators, entrepreneurs of color, the Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research (BAIR) Lab, the California Department of Financial Protection & Innovation (DFPI), federal regulators in the western region, and more.

Over the past few years, Committee Democrats have raised attention to the disproportionate funding opportunities women and entrepreneurs of color face as they work to start their businesses. In fact, in 2022 Black entrepreneurs received just 0.48% of all venture dollars in the US, while just 0.34% went to Black women in 2021. These barriers, coupled with the widespread anti-DEI efforts, make it harder for Black, Brown and women entrepreneurs to grow thriving businesses, further widening our nation’s racial-wealth gap, and illustrating why today’s make up of entrepreneurs are overwhelmingly white, older, and male.

In addition, with the rapid growth of AI, Committee Democrats have been vocal about the need to better understand this critical technology and its challenges before forging ahead. That is why then Chairwoman Maxine Waters created the Task Force on AI in the 116th and 117th Congresses and worked across the aisle to form the bipartisan AI Working Group this Congress. As technology continues to transform the financial services industry, it is critical that Congress remain at the forefront of these developments and stand ready to craft regulation, if necessary.

During the trip, Committee Democrats and meeting participants touched on a variety of areas. Including:

  • Artificial Intelligence: Committee Democrats discussed the potential AI has to support opportunities for people of color but also concerns of a potential skyrocketing unemployment rate, risks to financial stability, misinformation, and the potential AI has to exacerbate biases that already exist, especially in the financial services industry. During meetings, they also discussed what guardrails to mitigate these risks might look like.

  • Apple at the Intersection of Financial Services: Committee Democrats heard from Apple about the work the company is doing through their Racial Equity and Justice Initiative program, particularly in the face of rampant DEI attacks, to ensure that diversity remains at the center of their work. Committee Democrats also discussed Apple’s work on products like Apple Pay, which are part of the expansion of Big Tech into financial services, and heard from Apple about what is being done to protect consumers from fraud, safeguard their privacy, and help improve consumer financial health.

  • Investors and Entrepreneurs of Color: Committee Democrats discussed the challenges entrepreneurs face in securing the capital they need to survive and thrive, along with the barriers investors face when looking to invest in women and entrepreneurs of color. Investors and entrepreneurs shared the work they’re doing to overcome these challenges and what Congress can do to aid in this effort.

  • Role of State Regulators: Committee Democrats heard from California DFPI, as well as local offices of federal financial regulators about the ways in which Congress can promote underwriting to help expand access to credit for small businesses.

This trip is another example of the work Committee Democrats are doing under the leadership of Ranking Member Waters to ensure that DEI and racial equity remain at the center of financial services. Committee Democrats are also demonstrating the work they’re doing to ensure that the advancement of technology and AI does not hinder consumer protection or develop beyond Congress’ ability to regulate it.


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