While the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been working tirelessly to make financial markets safer, more transparent and fairer for consumers, opponents have continued their attack seeking to “defang” and defund the bureau since before it opened its doors. With the impending change in administrations, and in Congress, the lone consumer financial watchdog will be more vulnerable to their attacks than ever before. It’s time to stand up.
When literally millions of consumers were losing their homes and the economy was in a tailspin during the financial crisis, many fought to create an agency that stood up for those who needed a strong, fair, thoughtful representative, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
This agency is still not well known among consumers, but when people hear of some of its accomplishments in its brief five-year history and its mission to serve the public, consumers overwhelmingly support the CFPB. In a national survey conducted in June, eight in 10 Democrats and almost six in 10 Republicans expressed a favorable view of the agency.
To mention just a few CFPB achievements, the agency has:
- Created mortgage rules that make home loans more affordable and “Know Before You Owe” loan disclosures more understandable.
- Returned almost $12 billion in relief to some 27 million consumers who were defrauded by predatory student loans from for-profit schools and credit card add-on products and illegal debt-collection tactics, and more.
- Established a first-rate complaint system that helps individuals get problems resolved; empowers consumers to make smart financial choices using the CFPB’s public, searchable complaint database; helps the bureau spot patterns of deceptive practices; and target the worst violators, holding companies accountable for their actions.
In fact, a whistleblower complaint led the CFPB to investigate Wells Fargo, which culminated in a $100 million fine for Wells — plus fees refunded to consumers — for secretly creating millions of bogus bank accounts.
Director Richard Cordray has been at the agency’s helm for more than four years, balancing consumer protection with the interests of the marketplace and implementing fair rules of the road for responsible consumers and businesses.
Consumers have benefited in obvious and subtle ways from the CFPB’s rules, lawsuits and settlements, oversight of large financial institutions, and its free financial education information for students, seniors, service members and the underrepresented.
Now we need to stand up to those in Congress and in the upcoming Trump administration who, in the name of “reform,” want to cripple the CFPB or starve it by draining its funding. The goal of opponents is to put the CFPB’s budget under congressional control. Like most other bank regulators, the CFPB is funded by the Federal Reserve, independent from Congress. Certain lawmakers also seek to replace its one accountable director with a weaker five-member commission to dilute the agency’s effectiveness.
Ultimately the goal is to do away with the only federal regulator that has one single mission: to protect consumers. No matter who we voted for in November, consumers must reach their representatives to stand together and stand up for the one agency that has had our backs time and again.
Ruth Susswein is Consumer Action’s deputy director of national priorities.
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