709,401 (and Counting) Reasons to #DefendCFPB

By Sarah Lewis and Corey Klemmer

The big banks came out swinging at the beginning of the new Congress. What’s at the top of their list for 2017? Raising workers’ wages? Lowering prescription drug prices? Fighting the gender and race wage gaps? Nahh.

They’re trying to get rid of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Wall Street watchdog created after the 2008 financial crisis to protect consumers from the banks and financial institutions that brought down the economy.

We could pretend to be surprised, but considering how much good the CFPB has done for working people, it’s no surprise that Wall Street fat cats are trying to get the agency’s director fired, slash its funding or do away with it altogether.

But we’re not just going to stand by. Here are just a few of the reasons we’re going to #DefendCFPB:

1. They get that money. For you: Over its first five years of operation, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recovered $11.7 billion for consumers. In just the first quarter of 2016, enforcement efforts resulted in $24.5 million returned to more than a quarter-million consumers who had been cheated by payday lenders, debt collectors, private student lenders, auto lenders, mortgage originators and other non-bank financial companies.

2. You can complain to them. And they actually respond!: The CFPB’s job is to protect consumers and they take it seriously. Rather than relying entirely on companies to follow the rules and look out for consumers, the CFPB takes complaints directly from you, and they follow up! You actually can track the status of your complaint and look at other consumers’ complaints and experiences in the publicly available and searchable database. Since beginning operations in 2011, the CFPB has handled more than 1 million complaints from consumers of financial products and has been able to get 709,401 responses from the companies involved.

3. They took on Sallie Mae/Navient. Like for real: You might be hard-pressed to find someone with something nice to say about student loan giant Sallie Mae/Navient, and for good reason. Whether they’re cheating our soldiers or “systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment,” they seem to think the law doesn’t apply to them. But the CFPB isn’t having any of that: The agency helped secure a settlement for service members who’d been cheated and are currently suing Navient for creating obstacles to repayment and giving borrowers bad information. Maybe that’s why Navient’s CEO is gunning for them in the press.

4. They reined in Wells Fargo’s runaway wagon: Wells Fargo was busy in 2016. The bank opened more than 2 million fake accounts, charged student loan borrowers illegal fees and gave borrowers bad information. But the CFPB was on the case. The bank had to return the money it cheated out of consumers and pay a hefty fine.

5. They’re trying to shut down debt traps: Payday lenders offer short-term, small-dollar loans. You’ve probably heard the commercials or seen their storefronts in half-empty strip malls in small towns and near military bases. What you may not know is that those loans often come with astronomical fees and interest rates designed to trap borrowers in a lifetime of debt. The CFPB is working on rules that would make it harder for these companies to take advantage of people who just need a little extra to carry them to their next pay day. But without the CFPB, these predatory lenders will keep trapping working people in their never-ending downward spiral of debt.

6. They catch the scammers: Personal finance can be overwhelming and confusing, and there are plenty of companies out there more than willing to take advantage of that. Scammers are offering everything from student loan repayment assistance to credit card debt reduction to settlement advances. But it’s getting harder for them with the CFPB out here on our side. Just this week, the CFPB brought an enforcement action against a company that had scammed millions of dollars in settlement funds intended to cover health care costs and other compensation for 9/11 heroes and NFL concussion victims.

7. They make sure prejudice isn’t profitable: It may surprise some bankers to know that discriminating against people of color and LGBTQ people is actually illegal. But the CFPB has put them on notice by bringing enforcement actions against banks and lenders for charging higher interest rates on loans to people of color and has clarified that denying people credit based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression is unlawful under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

The list goes on and on, but we’re running out of space and we’re running out of time. But you get the point: The CFPB is standing up for Main Street, so now Wall Street is trying to shut it down. Please join us in fighting to #DefendCFPB. Call your senator now: 1-888-789-9078.


This was reposted from the AFL-CIO.