Blog Posts By:

Ed Mierzwinski,
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

Today, new CFPB director Kathy Kraninger testifies to Congress for the first time. The House Financial Services Committee will need to drill down with tough questions. Why? Kraninger's written pre-filed statement reads like an answer to a warped question from old television's Sergeant Joe Friday: "Just the irrelevant, off-point facts, ma'am." The committee should also look to the cogent testimony of consumer, civil rights, military family and student advocates also appearing today.

As the year 2018 came to an end, U.S. PIRG, Americans for Financial Reform and AFR members filed the last in in a seemingly interminable series of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Requests for Information. Although there was no clear intent to this "Data Collection" RFI, we, and allied academic scholars who filed a separate comment, both inferred it as another opportunity for industry opponents of the CFPB to attack the Bureau's consumer protection mission -- this time by challenging its collection and use of data to evaluate and respond to financial marketplace problems that harm consumers. 

Today, 7 member groups of the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) asked each of their national Data Protection Authorities to investigate Google Android's smartphone locational data collection practices following an investigative report by the Norwegian Consumer Council (Forbrukerrådet) finding that Google may be in violation of the new European GDPR privacy law. All the groups are members of the U.S. PIRG-backed TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue, which itself  followed up on the report and EU actions with a letter to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Meanwhile, as the Senate prepared for an afternoon FTC oversight hearing today where Facebook may be a focus, we joined leading groups in a separate letter to complain to the FTC about its biased staff report that adopts unsubstantiated industry claims in defense of an FTC call to the administration for weak baseline privacy choices. 

Next year, a highly-anticipated privacy and data rights battle will occur in Congress. Powerful special interests from Google to Facebook are responding to the new European General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) by seeking to quash any similar effort to protect U.S. consumers while simultaneously seeking to preempt a new California privacy law before it takes effect in 2020. Will we continue as data collector products, not their customers, or will we gain control over our own financial DNA? The state PIRGs are in this one; guess which side we're on. Today we joined 34 leading groups in issuing shared Privacy Principles.

This guest post from Nathan Acks of the State PIRG Internet Security team offers background on the latest Facebook breach and what you can do.

Ten years ago this weekend the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers marked the massive financial collapse of 2008. Millions of Americans lost homes, jobs and trillions of dollars in retirement savings. Today, the financial collapse hasn't been forgotten, it's being ignored by Congress and Wall Street.

On Thursday, 13 September, the House Financial Services Committee is to consider the latest in a long series of data security and data breach bills that Congress takes up at the request of the banks. These Trojan Horse bills come riding in with few, if any, protections riding in the saddle, but massive elimination of stronger state laws hidden in the belly of the beasts. The proposal, HR6743, the Consumer Information Notification Requirement Act (Luetkemeyer (MO)), might also be called the “Equifax Protection Act.”

We've joined leading consumer, civil rights, labor and older American organizations in a comment letter urging the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to strengthen its proposed "Regulation Best Interest" intended to ensure that all broker-dealers and other individuals and firms offering investment advice act do so in a fiduciary capacity, or in the best interest of their investor-clients. (Right now, it doesn't).

We joined leading consumer organizations to criticize the national bank regulator OCC's new proposal to charter non-bank fintech companies. We called it both illegal and a gateway for online predatory lenders to enter states where high-cost payday lending is banned. Leading state bank regulatory officials also opposed the OCC move, which is also one of the recommendations in a controversial Treasury Department report released the same day.

In response to a Request for Information from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to comment on its "Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs", we joined Consumers Union and other leading groups in a comment letter. In particular, we detail ways to rein in abusive and anti-competitive practices of both Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) and Big Pharma's brand name drug companies that force American consumers to pay too much for health care. Our comments support many of the proposals from Secretary Azar and HHS.