Articles Posted in Consumer Protection

A high-level federal examiner at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency reportedly leaked information to Wells Fargo about the existence of an investigation – something that is strictly forbidden. debt defense

Debt defense attorneys in Miami know that this kind of disclosure means the bank could have taken measures to protect itself from criminal or civil liability.

American Banker reports the tip-off was uncovered by a watchdog agency with the U.S. Treasury Department, which found the examiner in charge of the Wells Fargo investigation for the OCC reportedly let the bank in on the probe by the Treasury Department. The exact nature of that investigation and the details of what Wells Fargo executives learned about it have not yet been released. In general, employees for the OCC are not supposed to discuss any pending investigative details unless they specifically have the express approval to do so.

This lead wasn’t previously reported, but was discovered in a recent report released by the inspector general’s office for the Treasury Department. It should be noted the OCC’s budget is dependent on fines and assessments against the banks it oversees – which includes Wells Fargo, a company with more than $2 trillion in assets. Continue reading

Over the last several months, the authority and drive of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been eroded piece-by-piece. consumer rights lawyer

Recently, The New York Times reported the agency’s pursuit of predatory payday lenders relaxed considerably amid intense lobbying of the industry to this administration. In just two months, hundreds of lobbyists from the industry will be in Florida for a retreat at the Trump National Doral Golf Club. Meanwhile, the CFPB’s interim director, Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, announced a halt to enactment of a rule imposed tight restrictions on short-term payday loans, which lead to some of the most extreme cases of abusive payday lending. He has also stopped enforcement actions against payday lenders who trick consumers into thinking that borrowing rates are less expensive than they truly are.

Then there was word the agency was dropping the investigation into the Equifax data breach. This was the incident that exposed the private, personal data of millions of Americans to hackers. To put this into perspective, criminals now have access to critical, sensitive data from 145 million Americans (including addresses and social security numbers), putting those consumers at high risk for fraud victimization that can damage their credit and financial security – and the company negligent in allowing this breach suffers no consequences. Continue reading

While Americans are “drowning in debt,” the White House is waging a war on regulation that is ultimately going to push even more consumers into greater debt and higher rates of poverty. Although these plans are touted as part of a pro-business agenda intended to spur economic growth, our Miami debt defense attorneys recognize many of these measures are going to have a harsh impact on consumers – especially those already in the lower tax brackets.debt defense attorney

One of the most recent and perhaps most destructive of these efforts is the recent stripping down of the consumer protections and watchdog oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You may recall this is the agency created seven years ago that has since been dedicated (successfully so) to preventing consumer rip-offs by loan and credit card issuers, debt collectors, payday lenders and other large financial players. Prior to this administration’s assuming control of the CFPB, the agency had collected nearly $12 billion in compensation for 29 million consumer victims of financial scammers.

Since Mick Mulvaney (also budget director for the Trump administration) stepped in as interim director of the agency in November, he has been dismantling key elements of the program piece-by-piece. He has done significant damage just in the last several months, and planned actions are likely to further threaten consumer financial well-being. Continue reading

The sweeping financial reforms instituted by the previous White House administration face serious threats as Wall Street and the politicians backed by them set their sights on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The creation of the CFPB in 2010 is intended to serve as a watchdog over large banks and corporations that threaten consumer rights – much like what we saw leading up to the housing market collapse that drove us into a recession.consumer rights lawyer

The first significant victory, of course, happened in late October, when Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate necessary to block implementation of a new landmark rule by the CFPB to ban arbitration provisions by banks and credit card firms. The rule ensured wronged consumers would still have access to the courts to settle disputes via class action litigation, which evens the playing field when consumers are wronged by large corporations and financial institutions. Now, though, the arbitration provisions will continue, and class action lawsuits will grind to a halt. The CFPB’s director put it simply, “Wall Street won and ordinary people lost.”

Now, that director is stepping down, and there is ongoing talk of shutting down the CFPB, with powerful bank and business representatives lamenting the agency’s “unchecked” power and “lack of accountability.” The truth of the matter is that although the agency has only been in existence for about 5.5 years, enforcement actions against everyone from small-time debt collectors to the world’s biggest banking giants has resulted in the return of nearly $12 billion to some 30 million consumers. Further, it’s public database of consumer complaints against lenders has resulted in a host of new rules on everything from prepaid cards to student loans to mortgages. The agency also has been able to obtain some type of solution to some 160,000 consumer complaints out of 800,000. Continue reading

The Federal Communication Commission reports U.S. consumers are on the receiving end of approximately 2.4 billion robocalls every month (as of last year). That’s an increase from the average 1.5 billion roboscam calls that were made monthly in 2015. So it’s unsurprising that robocalls are the No. 1 consumer complaint. These were driven in large part by internet-powered telephone systems that have allowed scammers to make massive volumes of calls cheaply and efficiently from any point on earth. consumer rights lawyer

Even though the FCC and other agencies have protections in place to help consumers avoid these unwanted (and sometimes dangerous) calls, the number of those that are received are still extremely high. These calls are more than just annoying. The reality is many people are scammed out of their hard-earned savings, retirement accounts or checking accounts. For example, just one scheme in which robocallers were pretending to be agents with the Internal Revenue Service garnered scammers more than $54 million in a single year, according to the FCC. If there was no financial incentive, people wouldn’t make these calls. Clearly, they are worth the scammers’ time.

As The New York Times recently reported, there may be several actions consumers can take to protect themselves. These ranged from not answering the phone to seeking government help.  Continue reading

Phone scams are on the rise, with the U.S. Department of Justice reporting new investigations almost weekly. Some call and pose as debt collections agencies, seeking repayment of non-existent deaths. Others pose as charity workers. These individuals can be hard to spot – and extremely difficult to catch. The DOJ made major headlines last year with its indictment last year of more than 60 people in a multi-million dollar Indian call center scam that targeted U.S. victims. Callers often threatened victims with arrest if they didn’t pay. consumer protection

Now, some consumers are fighting back. Take The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s recent account of a man who began to get so fed up with scammers who continually called claiming to be with the Canadian Revenue Agency that he decided to take matters into his own hands. He began calling them back. Every second he can troll the trolls, he explained, was time they couldn’t spend trolling someone else.

The scammers set up a voicemail, claiming to be the government agency and demanding a call back to resolve a serious matter of criminal activity. Now, if one were to call back the actual government agency, they would be pushed through a series of bureaucratic menus before you ever get to a real person. However, when you call back the phony government agency, you’ll be put right through to an “agent.” Once the Canadian man discovered this, he started calling them every spare chance he got – on his lunch break, while waiting in traffic or if he found himself bored for a few minutes. He gives them phony names and erroneous numbers. If they hang up, he calls them right back, pretending the call was disconnected. Sometimes, the scammers demand he stop “pranking” them – but he doesn’t. He figures every minute they’re on the phone with him is less time they’re swindling someone else.  Continue reading

Tens of thousands of student loan lawsuits are filed every year by creditors who allege default on collectively billions of dollars in private student loan debt. student loan attorney

Although we are teetering on the edge of a student loan debt crisis, the reality is many of these lawsuits are riddled with factual and legal errors. Some borrowers who have defaulted may assume the outcome of the case against them is a foregone conclusion – they will lose. However, those who are fighting back against student loan lawsuits are discovering there are a number of effective legal strategies that may help them fight off a large judgment against them.

Miami student loan debt attorneys are closely familiar with the defenses outlined recently by The New York Times, which detailed the top ways these lawsuits fail (and work out in your favor).  Continue reading

Spotting a single cockroach scurrying across the kitchen floor when you flip the light on is disconcerting enough. What’s even worse is the knowledge there are almost certainly more you can’t see, lurking in dark crevices, part of a systemic problem (of your own creation or otherwise). The same is true of the consumer rights violations uncovered at Wells Fargo. consumer rights

As billionaire investor Warren Buffet recently commented to CNBC, Wells Fargo’s recent woes are indicative not just of issues within that institution, but are likely reflective of more widespread problems within then banking industry as a whole. When this issues are spotlighted – as is currently being done with a third-party review of the bank’s most recent sales scandal – we’re likely to be seeing more of the same. Even the bank’s CEO in an internal message warned workers to brace for the potential onslaught of negative headlines as the independent review nears a close.

Buffet commented that anytime an organization with thousands of employees is heavily scrutinized, issues will be uncovered. This is especially true when there have already been notable systemic problems. Such issues highlight the culture of a place, which can set the tone for other shady practices.  Continue reading

Wells Fargo and home warranty company American Home Shield (AHS) have been accused in dozens of consumer complaints filed online and with the Federal Trade Commission of charging unsuspecting mortgage customers with a bill for an “optional” home warranty product.consumer protection lawyer

The issue was first reported by The Capitol Forum, a paywall-blocked investigative outfit catering to investors and policymakers. Customers who were surprised to discover the bill on their mortgage payments found it difficult if not impossible for Wells Fargo to remove it.

One customer told investigators he had never been contacted with any offer, nor did he approve it. Yet he was billed an extra almost $50 on his mortgage bill. The bank promised to fix the issue, but the charge showed up again the next month too. Continue reading

In the wake of the economic crisis largely fueled by weak financial regulations and poor consumer protections, the federal government enacted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It was part of the Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection Act, which included a number of elements that shielded consumers from abusive and predatory practices and extended power to hold violators to account. consumer protection

Now, the Trump administration and Republican Congress have made it clear they intend to weaken the CFPB, and slash other consumer protection too.

Just recently, the Treasury Department issued a report that proposes a major weakening of the act, dramatically reducing the role of the federal government in overseeing the consumer financial services market. In particular, the CFPB would be constrained to a major degree. Republicans have been after the CFPB since it was created and began providing regulatory oversight for seven different federal agencies. While even lenders have seen the value in consolidation of regulatory compliance, conservative lawmakers continue to try to undercut the act and the consumer protection it provides.  Continue reading