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.
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