AFR in the News: Main Street’s Best Friend in Government

ForbesThat’s the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to financial planner John Wasik, writing on

“In a time in which ‘too big to fail’ still seems to be the unwritten law of the land,” he observes, “the CFPB is looking out for the little guy by policing credit cards, mortgages and other loans.”

And meanwhile “bankers and their Republicans allies” are still trying to block Richard Cordray’s nomination as Director.  “They’d be thrilled,” Wasik says, “if the agency never got a chief executive and lost its funding and independence. Here’s what is at stake,” he continues, “courtesy of Americans for Financial Reform:

  • “The CFPB joined other regulators in going after Capital One, Discover, and American Express over the aggressive marketing of credit-card add-on products…
  • “New CFPB rules prohibit banks and mortgage companies from making loans without verifying borrowers’ ability to repay…
  • “Ever have a problem with a student loan? For the first time, people have a place to go with complaints about private education loans. Some of these complaints have resulted in monetary relief. (The median amount that lenders report having returned so far is $1,572.) But the biggest source of complaint is the sheer difficulty of repaying loans – or of renegotiating them to take advantage of current low interest rates. Noting that pattern, the CFPB has begun  a process of developing new and more affordable private-loan repayment options, putting out a request for public comment on how to do so. The CFPB is also investigating deceptive or predatory lending by for-profit colleges and questionable marketing practices by banks and credit card companies on college campuses. The student loan business is still a hot mess, but new policing should crack down on some notable abuses.
  • “The CFPB has been protecting our men and women in uniform, who’ve been prime targets for financial abuses in recent years. They are preyed upon by payday lenders and firms that try to “buy” their pensions. Under Assistant Director Holly Petraeus, the CFPB has a special team of advocates and investigators looking out for service members and veterans.
  • “Money transfers are now being policed. With its new remittance rules, the CFPB brings transparency to a notoriously abusive market, and gives consumers remedies if the provider fails to deliver the funds as promised.
  • “Cracking down on overdraft scams. Banks have been pulling this fast one for years: “overdraft protection.” This is really an incredibly lucrative line of credit that they suck you into if you overdraw your account. JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, PNC, Bank of America, and five other banks are currently under investigation for persuading customers to opt into expensive overdraft-protection programs without always being made aware of cheaper alternatives. The CFPB plans to issue new overdraft rules.
  • “Going after rapacious debt-collection firms. In January 2013, the CFPB began to investigate evidence of harassment and deception on the part of the 175 largest debt-collection firms, which bring in more than $10 million a year each. The Bureau has also begun to oversee the credit reporting industry, implementing a federal law that requires such companies to remove or correct inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information within 30 days of being notified.
  • “Establishing a complaint database for consumers. Using the CFPB’s website, consumers can find out which card companies are being criticized for what, how quickly they’re resolving problems, and what kind of relief people are getting. You want to submit a complaint? Click on this link.

“And this is just the beginning. If you’re wondering how is it possible that yet another government agency is attempting to police financial services, consider that before the CFPB inception, not one government body exclusively represented consumers: Not the Fed, not the SEC and certainly not the Comptroller of the Currency.

“If you like this kind of protection, let your senator know. Agencies like the CFPB only come around once in a century.”