Tag Archives: Dodd-Frank

17 Democrats Decried for Sending This Clear Message: “I Work for My Bank Donors, Not My Constituents’

“Voters have seen this movie before. It didn’t work out in 2008 and it’s no wiser today. There is simply no excuse for a Democrat to add their name to Wall Street deregulation.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 3-6-2018

Senators Tim Kaine and Angus King. Both senators were among the seventeen Democratic caucus members who voted in favor of a financial dergulation bill on Tuesday. “This bill wouldn’t be on the path to becoming law without the support of these Democrats,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) following the vote. Photo: flickr

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are not impressed.

And they were not alone Tuesday as outrage and disgust erupted among consumer watchdogs and progressives after Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and sixteen Democrats joined with 50 Republicans in the U.S. Senate to advance a bill that critics say is just another handout for Wall Street banks—one that also sets the stage for the next major financial meltdown. Continue reading

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Showdown Looms as Trump, Flouting Dodd-Frank, Says CFPB Hater Mulvaney to Head Agency

Agreeing with outgoing director Cordray, Sen. Elizabeth Warren pushes back against White House, saying Trump “can’t override” Dodd-Frank

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-25-2017

Trump said Friday that OMB director Mick Mulvaney, seen here in 2013, would serve as acting director of the CFPB. Critics, however, say that’s not lawful, as it should be the individual named by outgoing director Richard Cordray—Leandra English. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/cc)

A battle appears to be brewing between the White House and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), with each having named a different individual to serve as acting director of the agency, and President Donald Trump’s appointment denounced as “legally dubious.”

The showdown gained steam on Friday afternoon when Richard Cordray, who had been leading the CFPB since its inception, tendered his expected resignation, saying he was leaving at the end of the day. Another key event that day was the CFPB naming Leandra English as deputy director of the agency. She had been serving as the agency’s chief of staff. Continue reading

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Why we need to save the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

This article was originally published in TheConversation.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has faced battles with Republicans since the CFPB was created. Image via YouTube screen shot.

Republicans in Congress and the White House have been very blunt about their desire to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – and the threats to it are mounting.

The agency was launched in 2011 in the aftermath of the financial crisis as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The goal was to protect consumers from deceptive or misleading practices in the financial industry.

At the moment, Republicans seem focused on blocking CFPB rules they don’t like, such as one that would have prevented the use of arbitration clauses in financial contracts, making it easier for people to band together to sue banks for wrongdoing. Separately, the Trump administration has been heavily critical of the CFPB, and its director is said to be considering leaving before his term expires next July, which would allow the president to pick his replacement.

So what would you miss if the agency suddenly disappeared or got gutted?

In short, a lot. We base this conclusion on the work the three of us have done in recent decades. One of us (Sovern) has been writing about consumer law for more than 30 years, while the other two of us direct a legal clinic that represents elderly consumers. We’ve seen the worst of what financial companies can do, and we’ve also witnessed how the CFPB has begun to reverse the tide.

John Stumpf, far left, lost his job as CEO of Wells Fargo as a result of the scandal over fraudulent accounts. Reuters/Gary Cameron

Life before CFPB

If you are one of the more than 29 million consumers who have collectively received nearly US$12 billion back from misbehaving financial institutions because of the CFPB’s efforts, you already know its value. But even if you are not, you have probably benefited from the bureau’s existence.

Before Congress created the bureau, there was no federal agency that made consumer financial protection its sole mission. Rather, consumer protection was rolled into the missions of a bunch of different agencies. And, as we saw during the financial crisis, regulators often gave it a back seat.

Congress, for example, gave the Federal Reserve the power to bar unfair and deceptive mortgage lending in 1994. Yet the central bank considered consumer protection a backwater and didn’t use that power until 2008 – too late to prevent the Great Recession. Congress took it away two years later when it passed Dodd-Frank.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency regulates banks but was so preoccupied with ensuring lenders were safe that it failed to protect consumers from their predatory subprime mortgages – so much so that it prevented states from doing so too. And now President Trump has put a former bank lawyer in charge of it. The Federal Trade Commission, which is tasked with fighting deceptive business practices, lacked the power to prevent such dangerous lending.

This meant consumer protection on financial matters fell through the cracks.

Wells Fargo’s recent fraud scandal is a case in point. In the early 2000s, Wells Fargo employees began opening fake accounts in clients’ names without permission, leading in some cases to lower credit scores and a variety of fees. The bank ultimately opened millions of fraudulent bank and credit card accounts before the scheme came to an end last year.

But as early as 2010, before the CFPB was set up, regulators at the OCC were increasingly aware of what was happening at Wells Fargo thanks to hundreds of whistleblower complaints. The OCC even confronted the bank, yet failed to take any action despite many red flags, according to an internal audit.

It wasn’t until the Los Angeles city attorney and the CFPB became involved years later that Wells Fargo took forceful action to stop the fraud. The regulators fined Wells Fargo a total of $185 million and forced it to refund fees it had charged customers and hire an independent consultant to review its procedures.

More importantly, they sent a clear message to other financial institutions: Cheat consumers and you will face the consequences.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray testifies on Capitol Hill in 2013. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Protecting consumers

Since its inception, the bureau has acted repeatedly to stop financial institutions from harming consumers.

It blocked debt collector attorneys from suing consumers based on false information. It discovered systemic problems with consumer credit reports and forced companies to correct errors. It compelled credit card companies to refund illegal fees. It protected borrowers from unlawful student loan servicing practices. It made lenders repay consumers they discriminated against. It recovered money for veterans who complained of abusive financial practices.

When the bureau began publishing consumer complaints on its website, companies that might previously have ignored negative feedback paid attention. Financial institutions have responded to complaints to the CFPB more than 700,000 times, often by providing a remedy to the consumers.

Besides protecting consumers, however, Congress had a second motive in creating the bureau: to help prevent the kind of mortgage lending that helped cause the Great Recession.

To that end, the bureau has adopted rules that help consumers to understand their mortgages – something that often wasn’t possible under the previously misleading mortgage disclosures. It also issued regulations to prevent consumers from taking out mortgages that they couldn’t repay. And after borrowers take out a mortgage, CFPB servicing rules establish the procedures servicers must follow when communicating with borrowers, correcting errors, providing information and dealing with loan modification requests.

Two of us have personal experience with one of the bureau’s new mortgage rules, which powerfully illustrates the value of the CFPB.

In 2014, Alice, a client of our law school clinic, was struggling to pay the mortgage on her home – which she had refinanced a few years earlier – after a stroke forced her into retirement. Our clinic helped her apply for a modification of her loan.

But within weeks, instead of acknowledging Alice’s application, the loan servicer summoned her to court to begin foreclosure proceedings in violation of CFPB servicing rules. Fortunately, our clinic was able to rely on those rules in getting the foreclosure action dismissed. Alice got her loan modified and remains in her home.

Demonstrators tried to draw attention to the subprime mortgage crisis back in early 2008. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Protecting the vulnerable

This reveals how the bureau is particularly important to protect vulnerable consumers, like the elderly, who are frequently targeted by fraudsters and predatory lenders because of their cognitive and other impairments and because they often have accumulated substantial assets. The CFPB is the only federal agency with an office specifically dedicated to protecting the financial well-being of older adults.

The bureau has brought cases against companies that attempted to take advantage of seniors by, for example, misrepresenting the interest rates on pension advance loans or deceptive advertising. In 2015 alone, consumer complaints to the CFPB brought relief to more than 600 older Americans just through debt collection problems.

The bureau has also worked to prevent financial abuse of the elderly, estimated to cost seniors as much as $36 billion annually. The CFPB has educated financial institutionsnursing facilities and others about recognizing and stopping elder financial abuse and exploitation.

Consumer protection in peril

Given Alice’s ill health, the consequences for her might have been disastrous if she had been thrown out of her home. But now she – and all of us – face the loss of the CFPB’s aid.

The CFPB is under attack from Republican members of Congress who believe more in lifting bank regulations than in protecting consumers. Some members have proposed eliminating the agency altogether.

The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would cripple the CFPB by, for example, taking away the power it used to fine Wells Fargo for opening illegal accounts and concealing its complaint database from public view. In other words, it would force the bureau to sit idly by as financial institutions lie to consumers. Even if the bureau survives, it may be less protective of consumers when its current director, Richard Cordray, leaves. His term expires next summer, and he may step down even sooner. Then we might see a former banker or bank lawyer put in charge, just as has happened at the Treasury Department and comptroller’s office.

Nearly every American has or will have a loan or bank account, a prepaid card, credit card, a credit report or some combination of those, and so has dealings with a financial institution policed by the CFPB. But few of us read the fine print governing these things or can understand it when we do. That gives the companies that write these agreements the ability to draft them to suit their own interests at the expense of consumers.

Similarly, we do not always know when a financial institution takes advantage of us, just as Wells Fargo customers did not always know that it had opened unauthorized accounts that lowered their credit scores.

Consumers need protection from misbehaving companies. If the bureau is eliminated, significantly weakened or starts protecting banks rather than consumers, all consumers will suffer.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on July 10, 2017.

About the Authors:

Disclosure statement

Along with three co-authors, Jeff Sovern received a $29,510 grant from the American Association for Justice Robert L. Habush Endowment and by a grant from the St. John’s University School of Law Hugh L. Carey Center for Dispute Resolution in 2014 to study arbitration. It resulted in an article. Along with Professor Kate Walton, he received a grant from the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges Endowment for Education to study debt collection, resulting in another article. He is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

Ann L. Goldweber is affiliated with NACA as a member.

Gina M. Calabrese is affiliated with the National Association of Consumer Advocates, New Yorkers for Responsible Lending, and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (former chair, Committee on the Civil Court).

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Ditching Watchdog, Betsy DeVos Signals ‘Open Season to Defraud’ Student Borrowers

A week after hiring for-profit college official to oversee fraud unit, Trump’s Education Department terminates relationship with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-5-2017

Student debt in the U.S. has reached more than $1.3 trillion. The Department of Education recently announced it would not work with the CFPB to hel students with complaints about their student loan servicers. (Photo: Tom Woodward/Flickr/cc)

Calling the move “outrageous and deeply troubling,” consumer advocates and opponents of skyrocketing student debt spoke out Tuesday against the Trump administration’s decision to end the working relationship between the Department of Education and the government watchdog tasked with helping oversee the federal student loan program and protect borrowers.

At the direction of Congress, under the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, the Department of Education has shared information with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) since 2011 in order to provide assistance to borrowers with complaints about Federal student loans. But the Department, now run by Secretary Betsy DeVos, informed the Bureau in a letter last week that it was ending the relationship. Continue reading

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Serving Wall Street Predators, GOP Launches Swift Attack on New Rule Protecting Consumers

The rule from the CFPB blocks ‘a fine-print trick that banks and predatory lenders use to evade accountability and conceal illegal behavior’

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-12-2017

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau architect Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), seen here in 2016, said the new rule from the agency “will allow working families to hold big banks accountable when they’re cheated.” (Photo: New America/flickr/cc)

A new rule by a federal watchdog—hailed as having “paramount importance” for protecting consumers from Wall Street predators and curbing corporate abuses—is under direct attack by Republicans just days after being issued.

The rule from the successful and broadly-supported Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) bans companies from using mandatory arbitration clauses, which makes consumers give up their right to file or join class-action lawsuits. In other words, it blocks “rip-off clauses” that are “a fine-print trick that banks and predatory lenders use to evade accountability and conceal illegal behavior,” as advocacy group Public Citizen put it, noting that they are also used by many corporations. Continue reading

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How Much to Buy a Congressional Vote? New Research Seeks Answer

Looking at Democrats who stopped supporting banking rules, authors conclude: ‘Substantial numbers of legislators sell out the public interest in exchange for political money’

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-3-2017

Campaign finance reform advocates protest outside the Capitol building in Washington D.C., 2011. (Photo: takomabibelot/cc/flickr

While it is conventional wisdom that money influences politics, researchers released a report Tuesday aiming to answer the longstanding question of exactly how much political spending it takes to sway a Congressional vote.

Fifty Shades of Green (pdf), published by the Roosevelt Institute, analyzes “the role political finance has played in securing the privileged positions of both high finance and big telecom” by examining how lawmakers evolved in supporting efforts to weaken the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and net neutrality. Continue reading

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In Latest Populist Betrayal, Trump Executive Order Unchains Wall Street Greed

Orders signed Friday are ‘nothing more than special favors for the same Wall Street banks that crashed our economy in 2008 and put millions of Americans out of work’

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-21-2017

Photo: YouTube

In yet another Wall Street giveaway, President Donald Trump on Friday afternoon took executive action to chip away at Dodd-Frank financial regulations and roll back rules aimed at reducing corporate tax avoidance.

Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for watchdog group Public Citizen, described the orders signed Friday at the Treasury Department as “nothing more than special favors for the same Wall Street banks that crashed our economy in 2008 and put millions of Americans out of work.” Continue reading

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‘Spectacular Betrayal’ as Trump Hands Economy ‘Back Over to Wall Street’

‘The Wall Street bankers against whom Trump ran are making policy now,’ says Public Citizen

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-3-2017

Executive orders seen as “a cave-in to the power of Wall Street and the financial lobby.” (Photo: Dave Center/flickr/cc)

President Donald Trump is handing the U.S. economy “back over to Wall Street” on Friday, with a regulatory rollback that critics say could put consumers and the financial system at risk.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump signed executive orders Friday “establish[ing] a framework for scaling back the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law” and rolling back an Obama-era regulation requiring advisers on retirement accounts to work in the best interests of their clients. That rule was set to go into effect in April. Continue reading

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Five Years Later, the Unfulfilled Promise of Dodd-Frank

Five years after the law’s enactment, fewer than two-thirds of its 390 rules have been completed

Written by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-21-15.

Despite Dodd-Frank's stated goal of reining in reckless banking, Washington, D.C. regulators keep giving Wall Street the green light. (Photo: GLing526/flickr/cc)

Despite Dodd-Frank’s stated goal of reining in reckless banking, Washington, D.C. regulators keep giving Wall Street the green light. (Photo: GLing526/flickr/cc)

With several key promises of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act still unfulfilled, “Americans cannot be comforted that Wall Street will not wreak havoc again,” according to a new report from the watchdog group Public Citizen.

“Five years after President Barack Obama signed this legislation, Dodd-Frank remains largely incomplete,” said Bartlett Naylor, Public Citizen’s financial policy advocate and author of the report, Dodd-Frank is Five: And Still Not Allowed Out of the House (pdf), published Tuesday.

“Major portions of the law have yet to be codified into specific rules,” Naylor explained. “Many enforcement dates are set well into the future, and certain rules are not yet being implemented and enforced to the fullest extent of the law.”

Dodd-Frank, signed into law five years ago Tuesday, “promised that America would never again be held hostage by banks that are too big to fail, but that promise remains unfulfilled,” Public Citizen said in a statement. “Instead, industry-captured regulators and members of Congress hungry for campaign contributions from Wall Street continue to delay and dilute the law.”

In fact, of the 390 rules required by the law, fewer than two-thirds have been completed; 60 rules have yet to be finalized, while another 83 have not even been proposed, according to a tally by law firm Davis Polk.

The report specifically looks at the status of key Dodd-Frank provisions including the Volcker Rule, which bans proprietary trading or short-term speculation; the “living will” stipulation empowering regulators to break up big banks that don’t provide a “credible” plan for an orderly resolution under the bankruptcy code should they fail; and restrictions on banker pay schemes that reward excessive risk-taking.

In all three areas, regulation has been stalled or stymied, Public Citizen declares—a reality the report attributes to the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington, D.C.

“Regulators and lawmakers who put Wall Street interests ahead of public interests aren’t fulfilling the law’s intent,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Instead of rolling back key provisions, our officials should be taking full advantage of this important Wall Street reform law to protect Main Street financial markets.”

Of course, Public Citizen points out, “the Wall Street reform law, even if well implemented, was not a complete answer to financial challenges.”

As Campaign for America’s Future co-director Robert Borosage wrote in an op-ed on Tuesday:

The banks still “frankly own the place,” in Sen. Richard Durbin’s immortal words, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has only begun to unveil the revolving door between Wall Street and it regulators that often neuters the law. Wall Street continues to deploy legions of lobbyists to avoid sensible regulation. It remains the leading source of dough for the leading presidential candidates in both parties. The Wall Street Journal reports that in the first month of reporting, Clinton raised about $300,000 from people working in the six biggest banks, while Bush pocketed $144,000 from Goldman Sachs employees alone. And that’s not counting the big money donations for their superPACs.

“That’s why all progressives should be pushing for greater reforms,” Borosage wrote, “even while fending off efforts of the bank lobby to cripple the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to cut budgets of regulatory agencies, and to weaken or repeal core elements of Dodd-Frank.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has decried recent attempts to water down Dodd-Frank, spoke with the advocacy group Americans for Financial Reform about the legislation in an interview published Tuesday:

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