Wall Street Wants to Kill the Agency Protecting Americans From Financial Scams

Donald Trump promised he would “do a number” on financial regulations, and it looks like he may finally get his wish fulfilled at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agency, created by Dodd-Frank, has returned $11.9 billion to 29 million consumers in its short 5 1/2 year history.

Wall Street’s well-paid surrogates in Congress have been beating up the CFPB and its director, Richard Cordray, at every opportunity. But the CFPB nonetheless carried on with its task of cracking down on sleazy payday lenders and sneaky banks that charged for services that customers never got. Now, though, Cordray has said he’s resigning at the end of the month, giving Trump a chance to replace him. The president’s temporary pick, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, once said “I don’t like the fact that the CFPB exists.” You get the idea.

Gary Rivlin and I took a look at the agency’s accomplishments — and at its foes well-funded attacks — in a piece for The Intercept. You can read it here.

The Agency that Helps Consumers, Irritates Republicans

When a Federal agency reins in sleazy debt collectors and slipshod mortgage servicers, that’s more than enough to get politicians enraged — at the agency, not the bad guys.

The two-year-old Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has already collected $3 billion to return to aggrieved consumers, and has done such good follow-up when consumers call to complain that lenders and others who fall under its jurisdiction are actually helping customers right away rather than face the ire of the CFPB.

In my story for TheStreet.com today, I talk about the bizarre reaction to CFPB from Republicans in the House of Representatives.

A gaggle of chest-beating Republicans has been in attack mode against the CFPB since before it even opened its doors, trashing the agency’s architect, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, and passing bills to try to weaken its authority. The latest effort, up for a vote in the House of Representatives in coming weeks: the Consumer Financial Protection and Soundness Improvement Act of 2013, which would reduce the agency’s pay schedule and make it easier to overturn its rules, among other curtailments.

Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, actually makes a good point when he criticizes CFPB for collecting extensive consumer data that is a worry in these times of compromised personal information, but he’s so over-the-top in his condemnations that his constructive criticisms could get lost.

A favorite practice of Hensarling’s is to introduce CFPB Director Richard Cordray at official hearings with taunts about the agency being “accountable to no one,” which is always kind of funny since the CFPB chief is sitting across from his cantankerous questioners precisely because he is being held accountable. Hensarling managed to squeeze references to Cordray as “credit czar” and “national nanny” and “benevolent financial product dictator” in a single sentence at a hearing in September.

You can read my story here.