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Reining in Wall Street
STANDING UP FOR CONSUMERS IN THE FINANCIAL MARKETPLACE—For more than 20 years, Consumer Program Director Ed Mierzwinski has helped us stand up against big banks and credit card companies.
A Consumer Cop On the Financial Beat
You work hard for your money. You should be able to save, invest and generally manage your money without fear of being trapped, tricked or ripped off by the institutions you are trusting with your financial future. And from the 2008 economic collapse, we know how big of an impact those institutions can have on our economy when they play fast and loose with our money.
Since 2009, the solution has been clear. We need to have fair, clear, transparent and enforceable rules that protect consumers in the financial marketplace. Now, we know we can get there through the work of an agency that has those principles at the core of its mission — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The CFPB Gets the Job Done
Despite the fact that the CFPB is not widely known, we’ve already seen their financial oversight return nearly $12 billion to consumers … in just five years. The CFPB holds big banks, debt collectors, and lenders accountable. Here are a few examples of some of the cases the CFPB has taken on:
When American Honda Finance used discriminatory pricing to rip off African-American, Hispanic, and Asia/ Pacific Island borrowers who paid too much for car loans, the CFPB returned $24 million to these consumers.
The Department of Justice and 47 states joined the CFPB in a $216 million action against JP Morgan Chase Bank for illegal debt collection practices affecting over half a million Americans.
When it was discovered that Wells Fargo employees were opening unauthorized debit and credit accounts using their customer's information, the CFPB fined Wells Fargo $100 million for fraud.
The CFPB fined Equifax andTransUnion — two of the three largest credit reporting agencies — $5 million for selling inflated credit scores to consumers that were different from ones actually used by lenders and returned $17 million to those harmed by the deception.
But the CFPB doesn't just help consumers get their money back, it levels the financial playing field. The CFPB has several specialized departments for veterans, senior citizens, new homeowners, college students, and low-income consumers that seek to educate the public on how to stay safe and provide them with the tools they need to keep their finances secure.
Tell Your Senators: Stand Up For Consumers
Almost every day we hear about some new way of tricking, trapping and ripping off consumers. And despite the fact that tricks like these led directly to the 2008 financial collapse, some Wall Street banks are spending upwards of a million dollars every day to roll back the rules and the CFPB — the very agency that was created to keep them in check. Now, many legislators in Washington want to defund or destroy the CFPB.
Effective consumer protections aren't some sort of luxury we can't afford — they're hallmarks of a great country. As founders and leaders of the movement to create and protect the CFPB, we're working to make sure that our success not only sticks, but that we can build upon it.
In late 2020, state and federal consumer cops filed several enforcement actions against the powerful Big Tech platforms Google and Facebook over practices alleged to violate antitrust and competition laws. What is notable about these efforts is the degree of bipartisanship and collaboration involved. Ideally, Congress will find a way to follow the bipartisan lead of the state consumer cops and make its continued investigations and actions against the Big Tech firms that now dominate the economy more effective.
In January, the Norwegian Data Protection Authority fined the dating app Grindr over $11 million for violating its users' privacy. In January 2020, U.S. PIRG and others had asked the FTC to investigate Grindr and other dating and health apps, but the agency has not taken action. In other news: January 2021, our coalition also asked the FTC to investigate the alleged difficulty of cancelling an Amazon Prime membership. Oh, and we've also urged Senate leaders not to give BigTech lobbyists any senior antitrust jobs!
U.S. PIRG joins Public Citizen and others urging FTC to investigate cancellation practices at Amazon Prime, based on findings of report by Norwegian Consumer Council.
Illiinois PIRG applauds passage of predatory lending reform capping usury ceiling at 36% APR. Measure sent to governor. Illinois will become the 18th state, along with the District of Columbia, that effectively bans payday loans.
President-elect Biden's platform includes a proposal to replace the private credit bureaus with a public credit registry. Here's why it's a worthy idea.
Tools & Resources
Defend the CFPB
Tell your senators to oppose the “Financial CHOICE Act,” which would gut Wall Street reforms and destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as we know it.
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