Last week I asked 100 people in an audience, “How many of you have heard of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?”
Only five people raised their hands.
I’m surprised. In the 240-year history of our nation, we never had a truly pro-consumer federal agency until five years ago. It’s working, but now we’re in danger of losing it.
If you use money or credit, take out loans, buy cars or pay on a mortgage, this bureau in Washington, D.C. is changing the way financial companies do business with you.
We might lose the bureau because big and small banks and other financial institutions hate it. They’re fighting it in court with lawsuits and with campaign contributions to members of Congress who will decide.
We might lose it because an area congressman, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, is closer to achieving his goal of watering down the nation’s financial regulatory system — nicknamed Dodd-Frank.
Hensarling leads the House committee that gives thumbs up or down to financial bills. With that power in hand, he received more campaign donations from banks, insurance companies and the securities and investment industry than any other member of Congress, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics says.
And we might lose the bureau because we have a president who, unlike the previous president, will not veto Hensarling’s pro-Wall Street bill – The Financial Choice Act — that would rip Dodd-Frank apart.
Remember that Dodd-Frank and the bureau came about after the 2008 financial meltdown. The bureau is part of the master plan to make sure it never happens again.
If you haven’t heard of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, I’ll take part of the blame. Maybe The Watchdog hasn’t placed a big enough spotlight on it.
It was the bureau that revealed how Wells Fargo employees created two million fraudulent customer accounts. The bureau fined Wells Fargo $100 million.
The bureau worked to get $120 million in refunds for military families by policing improper practices with mortgages, credit cards, student loans and other financial products aimed at the military.
The bureau created rules that prevented lenders from approving risky home mortgage loans and charging hidden fees to home buyers.
The bureau forced credit card issuers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars back to consumers because of illegal practices, unfair billing and deceptive marketing.
The bureau went after crooked bill collectors, check cashers and credit repair services.
The bureau forced the three major credit bureaus to make it easier to submit corrections to inaccurate information on your credit report.
In sum, the scoreboard shows the bureau’s big number at $12 billion. That’s how much the bureau claims it has refunded to consumers or zeroed out when their invalid debts were canceled.
No wonder Wall Street, its golden boy Hensarling and the corps of dark-suited lobbyists want this darn thing rubbed out. Quickly.
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Back to Bad Loans?
One who has studied government regulation tells me that financial institutions have adapted to the new order. The rules tamed the craziness that led to financial ruin nine years ago, says David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School.
Eliminating the bureau would force “a return to the dark old days when lenders could get away” with shadowy marketing practices, Reiss says.
“If the Trump administration were to get rid of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, consumers would have to be far more cautious when dealing with lenders,” he says. “There definitely would be a return to some of the predatory and abusive behavior. No one would be looking over the lender’s shoulder.”