The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is George Bailey.
Wall Street and the banks is Mr. Potter.
The “It’s a Wonderful Life” analogy is the obvious way for me to illustrate this issue, especially if you don’t trust banks or Wall Street executives.
The Washington agency was created as part of the Dodd-Frank Act in the wake of the financial meltdown in 2008.
Its job is to provide stringent regulation designed to hold financial institutions accountable. It is the government watchdog for all financial dealings and exists to make sure customers are not being exploited.
Sort of like George Bailey.
To do that, it was given unique independent powers under Dodd-Frank so its actions would never be influenced by politics. It was funded through the Federal Reserve — so its budget could not be cut by Congress — and the president does not have the power to fire its director on a whim.
I first learned about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last May when the House of Representatives passed the Financial Choice Act, which undoes much of Dodd-Frank and strips the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of most of its powers. Rep. Elise Stefanik voted for that bill. Thankfully, that legislation has not gone anywhere in the Senate.
Plan B was implemented late last month when the agency’s current director, Richard Cordray, resigned and President Trump immediately appointed Mick Mulvaney, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, to take over. Mulvaney works in the White House, where one assumes he could be influenced by politics.
Mulvaney is not a fan of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He called it the “worst kind of government entity” and says it is “unaccountable,” but fact checks show that is an exaggeration.
Since its beginnings, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been under fire from Republicans.
The agency has been accused of slowing down the economy because of excessive regulation and keeping small community banks from handing out loans to regular people.
Except, the statistics do not back up those allegations.
Last year, the banking industry notched its third year of record profits in the past four.
“Problem banks” fell to a seven-year low and U.S. banks have fared much better than banks in other parts of the world with far less regulation.
The agency has also collected more than $11.8 billion in settlements for some 29 million consumers since its inception, including a $100 million fine on Wells Fargo Bank for its widespread illegal practice of secretly opening deposit and credit card accounts that led to unauthorized charges without consumers’ consent.
The agency also runs a public website where consumers can submit complaints about their bank, credit card company or any other financial services company.
When I asked New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli about the CFPB under Mulvaney, he said he was concerned that Wall Street would return to the excessive risk-taking that caused the 2008 financial collapse.
If you lost money during the 2008 financial collapse — valuable retirement money — then you might be with me in wanting to err on the side of caution.
I’m worried about what will happen to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under Mulvaney.
I’m worried that no one will be looking out for the small investors who hope to someday retire.
I’m worried that if no one holds Wall Street accountable, many of us won’t have the opportunity for a wonderful life in retirement.