Reining in Wall Street

STANDING UP FOR CONSUMERS IN THE FINANCIAL MARKETPLACE—For more than 20 years, Consumer Program Director Ed Mierzwinski has helped us stand up against big banks and credit card companies.

A Consumer Cop On the Financial Beat

You work hard for your money. You should be able to save, invest and generally manage your money without fear of being trapped, tricked or ripped off by the institutions you are trusting with your financial future. And from the 2008 economic collapse, we know how big of an impact those institutions can have on our economy when they play fast and loose with our money. 

Since 2009, the solution has been clear. We need to have fair, clear, transparent and enforceable rules that protect consumers in the financial marketplace. Now, we know we can get there through the work of an agency that has those principles at the core of its mission — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.   

The CFPB Gets the Job Done

Despite the fact that the CFPB is not widely known, we’ve already seen their financial oversight return nearly $12 billion to consumers … in just five years. The CFPB holds big banks, debt collectors, and lenders accountable. Here are a few examples of some of the cases the CFPB has taken on:


When American Honda Finance used discriminatory pricing to rip off African-American, Hispanic, and Asia/ Pacific Island borrowers who paid too much for car loans, the CFPB returned $24 million to these consumers.


The Department of Justice and 47 states joined the CFPB in a $216 million action against JP Morgan Chase Bank for illegal debt collection practices affecting over half a million Americans.


When it was discovered that Wells Fargo employees were opening unauthorized debit and credit accounts using their customer's information, the CFPB fined Wells Fargo $100 million for fraud.


The CFPB fined Equifax andTransUnion — two of the three largest credit reporting agencies — $5 million for selling inflated credit scores to consumers that were different from ones actually used by lenders and returned $17 million to those harmed by the deception.

But the CFPB doesn't just help consumers get their money back, it levels the financial playing field. The CFPB has several specialized departments for veterans, senior citizens, new homeowners, college students, and low-income consumers that seek to educate the public on how to stay safe and provide them with the tools they need to keep their finances secure.

Tell Your Senators: Stand Up For Consumers

Almost every day we hear about some new way of tricking, trapping and ripping off consumers. And despite the fact that tricks like these led directly to the 2008 financial collapse, some Wall Street banks are spending upwards of a million dollars every day to roll back the rules and the CFPB — the very agency that was created to keep them in check. Now, many legislators in Washington want to defund or destroy the CFPB.

Effective consumer protections aren't some sort of luxury we can't afford — they're hallmarks of a great country. As founders and leaders of the movement to create and protect the CFPB, we're working to make sure that our success not only sticks, but that we can build upon it.

Issue updates

Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB focuses on consumer pain points | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday’s announcement of a new report finding stupefying amounts of medical debt on consumer credit reports continues the Biden CFPB’s focus on identifying and responding to consumer pain points caused by a financial marketplace that doesn’t always work for consumers. The CFPB has your back!

Photo courtesy Americans for Financial Reform, All rights reserved.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Crypto has gone mainstream. But where are the watchdogs? | Adrian Pforzheimer

Matt Damon strides past images of humankind’s boldest explorers: ocean voyagers, early aeronauts, mountaineers in a new cryptocurrency ad. If this were an ad for a new drug, or a regulated financial product, you’d expect the images of boldness and bravery to be accompanied by a lengthy disclaimer. You don't. Find out more.

Image credit Kanchanara via Unsplash

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

Whacked by bank or credit card junk fees? The CFPB wants to know. | Ed Mierzwinski

If you’ve been whacked by unexpected or unfair penalty or other junk fees by a bank, mortgage company, or credit card company, the CFPB wants to hear from you. You can send the CFPB a comment on its new “initiative to save households billions of dollars a year by reducing exploitative junk fees.” Find out more here. 

Cover photo "Fees Key" by Gotcredit.com via Flickr. Some rights reserved.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB Slams Big 3 Credit Bureaus for Excuses, “Deficiencies” and Failures | Ed Mierzwinski

A major new CFPB report assails the Big 3 credit bureaus for a series of excuses, “deficiencies” and failures. CFPB found that “Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion routinely failed to fully respond to consumers with errors.” Wow.

Cover graphic “Epic Fail” by Dunk via Flickr, some rights reserved.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

Broadband is the "new electricity" | Ed Mierzwinski

The House should pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill on the House floor this week. Among other provisions, it allocates $65 billion to make fast broadband more available -- especially in rural and tribal areas -- and more affordable. That total includes about $14 billion to subsidize access and about $42 billion to deploy broadband. Also, broadband providers would be required to use a new pricing label based on the easy-to-read FDA nutrition labels.

Photo of "Rural Broadband Buildout Project" by Maryland GovPics, via Flickr, some rights reserved.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Historic legislation to prevent predatory loans passes Illinois General Assembly

Illiinois PIRG applauds passage of predatory lending reform capping usury ceiling at 36% APR. Measure sent to governor. Illinois will become the 18th state, along with the District of Columbia, that effectively bans payday loans.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

FTC Complaint: Ending an Amazon Prime Membership Is a Deceptive, Unlawful Ordeal

U.S. PIRG joins Public Citizen and others urging FTC to investigate cancellation practices at Amazon Prime, based on findings of report by Norwegian Consumer Council.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Federal regulators, states file antitrust lawsuits against Facebook

Statement: "U.S. PIRG welcomes the Facebook lawsuits by 48 state and territorial attorneys general and federal regulators."

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

CFPB Approves Modified Final Debt Collection Rule

On Friday, the CFPB released a modified final version of its Debt Collection Rule, although it delayed action until December on one of its most controversial provisions, allowing collection of  time-barred zombie debt. A statement by Consumer Program Associate Lucy Baker follows.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S.PIRG | Financial Reform

CFPB Director: Stop Letting Industry Violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act

We've joined the National Consumer Law Center in a news release describing a letter from 21 consumer and faith groups urging her to revoke permission to the credit reporting industry to violate consumer protections. 

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Maryland PIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

BIG BANKS, BIGGER FEES

Over the last six months, state PIRG staff conducted inquiries at 250 bank and 116 credit union branches in 17 states and the District of Columbia and reviewed bank fees online in these and 7 other states. This report, “Big Banks, Bigger Fees: A National Survey of Fees and Disclosure Compliance,” examines the following questions:

 How easy is it for consumers to shop around? Are banks complying with the Truth In Savings Act, which requires disclosure of a schedule of account fees to prospective customers?

> Keep Reading

Picking Up the Tab

Some U.S.-based multinational firms or individuals avoid paying U.S. taxes by transferring their earnings to tax haven countries with minimal or no taxes. These tax haven users benefit from their access to America’s markets, workforce, infrastructure and security; but they pay little or nothing for it—violating the basic fairness of the tax system and forcing other taxpayers to pick up the tab.

> Keep Reading

Tax Shell Game

Tax havens are countries with minimal or no taxes, to which U.S.-based multinational firms or individuals transfer their earnings to avoid paying taxes in the United States. Users of tax havens benefit from access to America’s markets, workforce, infrastructure and security, but pay little or nothing for it—violating the basic fairness of the tax system.

> Keep Reading

Apples to Twinkies

America is facing an obesity epidemic – one that’s hitting children especially hard. The rise in childhood obesity has many causes, but one of the most important is the increased prevalence of high-fat, heavily sweetened junk food.  And shockingly, American taxpayers are spending billions to subsidize junk food ingredients, making the problem worse.

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10 Reasons We Need the CFPB Now

For years leading up to the 2008 financial collapse, federal bank regulators ignored numerous warnings of increasingly predatory mortgage practices, credit card tricks and unfair overdraft policies used by banks. This report outlines predatory financial practices that hurt consumers and helped collapse the economy, costing us eight million jobs, millions of foreclosed homes and trillions of dollars in lost home and retirement values. It explains these and other emerging problems as “10 Reasons We Need The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Now.”

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB Slams Big 3 Credit Bureaus for Excuses, “Deficiencies” and Failures | Ed Mierzwinski

A major new CFPB report assails the Big 3 credit bureaus for a series of excuses, “deficiencies” and failures. CFPB found that “Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion routinely failed to fully respond to consumers with errors.” Wow.

Cover graphic “Epic Fail” by Dunk via Flickr, some rights reserved.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

Broadband is the "new electricity" | Ed Mierzwinski

The House should pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill on the House floor this week. Among other provisions, it allocates $65 billion to make fast broadband more available -- especially in rural and tribal areas -- and more affordable. That total includes about $14 billion to subsidize access and about $42 billion to deploy broadband. Also, broadband providers would be required to use a new pricing label based on the easy-to-read FDA nutrition labels.

Photo of "Rural Broadband Buildout Project" by Maryland GovPics, via Flickr, some rights reserved.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

Will Executive Order Slow The March of the Mega-Banks? | Ed Mierzwinski

President Biden's recent Executive Order on promoting competition in the economy includes several specific recommendations on improving competition in the financial sector. It proposes that the CFPB give consumers more choices by giving them control of their financial data. It proposes that regulators strengthen oversight of bank mergers, which for years have been routinely rubber-stamped. While it doesn't specifically address the payment system oligopoly that raises the prices everyone pays, lowering swipe fees is also a logical outcome of the EO.

Cover photo of the Marriner Eccles Federal Reserve Building, Washington, DC by Rafael Saldaña via Flickr, Some Rights Reserved.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

House to take key vote to protect consumers today | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, the U.S. House takes a key vote. HR2668, the Consumer Protection and Recovery Act, would restore the FTC's Section 13(b) authority to hold wrongdoers accountable and compensate consumer-victims harmed by their actions. The Supreme Court had recently ruled that the power, used for over 40 years to recover billions, was not clearly articulated in law.

Cover photo via Flickr by Mr. Blue MauMau, some rights reserved.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG

As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) turns 11 years old, a new list from U.S. PIRG highlights 11 ways this crucial agency has rededicated itself to its mission since Rohit Chopra was confirmed as its new director by the Senate last fall.

Blog Post

Last year, the Supreme Court eliminated the FTC's key authority to disgorge ill-gotten gains from corporate wrongdoers and use the money to compensate their victims. It was an unfortunate decision that benefited a convicted payday lender who fleeced thousands of victims and will allow brand name Big Pharma firms that block lower-cost generic competitors and other wrongdoers to escape billions of dollars in restitution. The Senate Commerce Committee is voting tomorrow on a bill to restore FTC powers.

-- Cover graphic of FTC Building via Flickr, by Boston Public Library, Some rights reserved.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

U.S. PIRG joined leading consumer and bank trade groups to urge Congress to enact the bi-partisan HR5912, to close the Industrial Loan Company (ILC) loophole that threatens the banking system.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

Our statement on the Securities and Exchange Commission's newly proposed rule that would require publicly traded companies to improve and standardize the information they disclose about their greenhouse gas emissions.

Blog Post

In a new report, we question whether “Buy Now Pay Later” plans make “no fees or interest!” claims that may not be true. We find that you might be billed for canceled or backordered items, but neither the merchant nor the BNPL provider may take responsibility. You can file a comment in the CFPB’s BNPL inquiry until March 25th. Get our BNPL tips.

Cover image: Courtesy iStock by B4LL, used under license

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