Commentary: Consumer Protections & Protectors need to remain in place

Diane E. Brown

Diane E. Brown

As we look back on 2016, there is little argument that this year’s election will go down in history as a collective call for change of some kind. The danger is in allowing politicians to twist that desire for change toward their own political, ideological and financial ends.

The political agenda recently announced by leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, which Arizona Representatives David Schweikert, a Republican, and Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat both sit on, is a classic case in point. The leader of that panel has declared as priorities both dismantling the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and blocking a nearly complete rule from the CFPB that is designed to rein in the worst abuses of payday lenders.

The agenda of dismantling the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (CFPB) is not likely to be popular – let alone wise. Indeed, quite the opposite.

The CFPB was created by Congress after the economic collapse to serve as a watchdog for consumers and reduce the risk of another collapse. The fact is people like the CFPB, according to all available public opinion polling, and for good reason.

Since its inception, the CFPB’s successes for consumers include the following:

• The CFPB has already returned nearly $12 billion to over 27 million consumers who had been victims of one predatory scam or another.

• Among the CFPB’s numerous actions is a record $100 million penalty and consumer restitution against Wells Fargo for millions of fake, fraudulent consumer accounts created by its employees to meet sales goals.

• The CFPB’s website hosts a complaint database that has processed over one million complaints, and the website provides educational resources to help consumers make important financial decisions.

Yet, despite public support and a strong track record, Wall Street banks, financial companies and their cronies in Congress are calling for change to the CFPB’s configuration – a thinly veiled attempt to gut its power. Financial services industries have supported legislation that would change the CFPB’s leadership structure and oversight authority opening it up to gridlock or corruption and that would starve the agency by changing its funding source. Repealing or dramatically altering a law that protects average Americans against the excesses of a financial industry run amok is likely to strike many voters as the ultimate example of a rigged system.

As we head into 2017, we urge members of Arizona’s Congressional delegation, starting with U.S. House of Representatives David Schweikert and Kyrsten Sinema as members of the Financial Services Committee, to side with Arizona consumers and keep the CFPB intact.

Diane E. Brown is the Executive Director of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG). Arizona PIRG advocates on behalf of Arizona’s consumers. More information can be found at www.arizonapirg.org

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