Blog Posts By:

Ed Mierzwinski,
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

Yesterday, the Senate Banking Committee announced a bi-partisan bill designed to weaken bank regulations in numerous ways. Today the House Financial Services Committee votes on nearly two dozen bills. The worst would allow payday lenders and other seeking to avoid strong state laws under a new rent-a-bank scheme. It's Halloween again on Capitol Hill, with tricks for consumers and taxpayers, and treats for banks and payday lenders.

Like clockwork, after any big data breach is disclosed, powerful special interests seek to turn the problem into a bigger problem for consumers by  using it as an opportunity to enact some narrow federal legislation that broadly eliminates state data breach notice, state data security and other privacy protections.  I testified yesterday in the House warning of their Trojan Horse efforts, which not only take away existing laws, but deny any new laws, even on new problems identified. 

What would you do if you knew that the Big 3 credit bureaus were in the Top 5 of complaint leaders to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and that their mistake-ridden reports caused consumers to either be denied jobs or pay more for or be denied credit due to those mistakes? Well, if you were the leadership of the House Financial Services Committee, you'd consider not one, but two bills to make this worse by eliminating strong consumer protections and eliminating some and limiting other damages payable to consumers when credit bureaus wreck their lives. You'd hide a massive weakening of consumer protections inside a Trojan Horse bill that claims to be about letting the credit bureaus help people.

Recently released minutes of the July meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, comprised of Fed governors and regional Fed Bank presidents, show its concern that Wall Street reform rollbacks proposed by Congress, Treasury Department and the White House could allow "a reemergence of the types of risky practices that contributed to the crisis." Meanwhile, Fed vice-chair Stanley Fisher repeated his warnings that risks from the proposed rollbacks were "mind-boggling."

As the big Wall Street banks, payday lenders and other opponents of consumer protection intensify pressure on Congress to weaken financial reform and gut the CFPB like a fish, numerous reports of further Wells Fargo malfeasance serve as a warning that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the rest of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act are needed more than ever.

This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rolled out draft "Know Before You Owe" disclosures for banks marketing so-called "Standard Overdraft Protection," a controversial product that requires consumers to "opt-in" for the "privilege" of overdrafting debit and ATM transactions for a so-called convenience fee averaging $34. It also  released a study that finds that at-risk consumers who opt-in pay $450/year more in fees than other at-risk consumers.

The successful CFPB turns 6 years old tomorrow, July 21. It's already returned nearly $12 Billion to over 29 million consumers harmed by unfair financial practices. Here is a birthday look at the Consumer Bureau's body of work so far and why it makes no sense for Congress to roll it back at the request of Wall Street lobbyists and other special interests.

After the new FCC chair and Congress rolled back pending Obama-era broadband privacy rules applying to collection and use of your personal information by Internet Service Providers (generally large telephone and cable companies) the states (and some cities) moved to replace protections. AT&T, Verizon and Comcast swiftly sent lobbyists out around the nation to quash the efforts. This week, Sacramento is under siege by a phalanx of ISP lobbyists as a key California proposal, AB375 (Chau) is considered. Key Senate committee votes occur Tuesday.

In the news this month are several successful efforts to improve credit report accuracy, compensate the victims of credit bureau malfeasance and also to bring some credit repair doctors to heel. Did it take a village? No, it took a combination of strong consumer laws, a strong CFPB, tough state attorneys general working on a bi-partisan basis and, finally, consumer attorneys engaged in private enforcement of the laws as another line of defense. For markets to work fairly, consumers need all these levels of protection.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department came out with a report mandated by a Presidential executive order. As feared, the report is a Wall Street wish list, with a few crumbs thrown to small banks. The CFPB and investor protections are left in ruins.