Blog Posts By:

Ed Mierzwinski,
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

Monday, June 4, at midnight (ET) marks the deadline for filing public comments on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s latest inward-facing Request For Information (RFI); this one is on the future of the public Consumer Complaint Database, which has been disparaged for years by various bank industry actors and their coin-operated think tanks but most recently by the CFPB’s acting director, Mick Mulvaney. Here's why we are fighting to keep the database public.

Questions are being raised. Will the ballyhooed $1 Billion CFPB settlement with Wells Fargo be reopened because it clearly favors the wrongdoer at the expense of the victims? There is a reopening precedent for bad consent orders, which we discuss below.

We've joined complaints that two behemoth firms are in violation of Federal Trade Commission privacy rules. In the first, U.S. PIRG joins the Electronic Privacy Information Center and other groups claiming that a number of Facebook's practices - particularly, its use of facial recognition techniques without consent -- violate a previous 2011 privacy order. The facial recognition practice may also violate PIRG-backed Illinois law. Second, we join the Center for Digital Democracy's filing alleging that Google's YouTube collects information about kids in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). And we haven't forgotten about Equifax.

Recent news stories about Facebook providing personal information to the data broker Cambridge Analytica raise a question: Is Facebook in violation of a 2011 Privacy Order with the Federal Trade Commission? We've joined leading consumer and privacy groups in a letter to the FTC raising issues for an investigation.

In the run-up to the 2006-2007 mortgage bubble that led to the total collapse of our financial system in 2008, the Big 3 credit bureaus sold products known as "trigger lists" that aided sketchy mortgage companies in disrupting consumer transactions. The lists were "credited" with making a bad situation worse. Guess what? Longtime syndicated housing columnist Ken Harney warns: "they're back."

Throughout the anger and frustration over the Equifax breach debacle, consumers, reporters and legislators have repeatedly asked me: "Ed, why don't consumers, not credit bureaus, control when their credit reports can be shared or sold?" Now comes U.S. Senator Jack Reed (RI) with a PIRG-backed bill to do just that! 

When a tired TV show desperate for viewers goes over the top with wacky plots, it is said to have "jumped the shark." Unfortunately, even after the Wells Fargo debacle and even as bank profits return to record levels, the "viewers" of bank deregulation demands -- members of Congress -- still have an unslaked appetite for over-the-top, outrageous proposals to take consumer and financial system safety cops off the bank beat. Meanwhile, the public -- by wide, non-partisan margins, wants to keep the cops on the beat.

This month, Scott Tucker, a payday lender who used his proceeds to fund a LeMans racing team, was sentenced to 16 years in jail on federal racketeering and other charges.   Last fall, his former business partner Charles Hallinan, known as the Philadelphia Main Line "godfather" of payday lending, was also convicted of federal racketeering charges. Tucker and Hallinan's main business model? Their claim that their payday loan enterprises were for the benefit of Native American tribal partners and therefore subject to tribal immunity. The authoritative public interest law firm Public Justice speculates: "Tribal Immunity" may no longer be a Get-Out-of-Jail Free Card for payday lenders." It's about time.

We've sent a letter up to the Senate Banking Committee urging opposition to a bi-partisan proposal to roll back certain protections for consumers seeking mortgages and also certain safety-and-soundness protections enacted to give prudential regulators more authority to prevent large -- but not the largest -- banks from taking on too much risk. The bill will likely be voted on Tuesday.

With the departure yesterday of director Richard Cordray from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we don't doubt that the President has the authority to nominate a new director of the Bureau. But the President's assertion later that day that he can and would appoint his own temporary or acting director -- at odds with the plain language of two laws --  places the bureau's leadership in crisis.