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

Half of CFPB Complaints in 2019 About Credit Reports As House Brings Reforms To Floor | Ed Mierzwinski

On Wednesday, the full U.S. House is expected to vote on a credit reporting reform package, HR 3621, the Comprehensive CREDIT Act. Meanwhile, a PIRG analysis finds that half of all complaints to the CFPB in 2019 concerned credit reporting and the most-complained about companies, in the entire database, were the so-called  Big 3 credit bureaus.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

U.S. PIRG and Leading Groups Support Findings of Norwegian Privacy Report | Ed Mierzwinski

In support of a report by colleagues from the Norwegian Consumer Council on whether the data sharing and privacy practices of a number of dating and other smartphone apps were in compliance with European privacy rules (GDPR) or the new California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), U.S. PIRG and other leading groups sent joint letters to key policymakers, including the California, Oregon and TexaS Attorneys General, the Federal Trade Commission and all members of the U.S. House and Senate. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB Appoints Task "Farce" On Consumer Law | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger appointed four lawyers and professors to a "Taskforce on Federal Consumer Law." To my knowledge, none have worked for consumer protection organizations yet all have worked as industry consultants or been aligned with industry views, although all have previous government experience. I am aware of several distinguished professors with CFPB experience who were rejected. Incredibly, the announcement of this better-described "Task Farce" claimed inspiration from a distinguished bi-partisan commission established by the Consumer Credit Protection Act in 1968." 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

The credit reporting system is backwards. Congress can pass one law to fix two things about it. | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week, Sens. Jack Reed (RI) and Chris Van Hollen (MD) introduced legislation to finally give consumers real control over our own credit reports. The Consumer Credit Control Act would change what Sen. Reed appropriately calls our “backwards” credit reporting system by helping to solve two problems. The Consumer Credit Control Act is a win-win for consumers. It improves their privacy and saves them money.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Questions Congress Should Ask CFPB Director Next Week | Ed Mierzwinski

CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger will deliver the statutory “Semi-Annual Report of the CFPB” to the House Financial Services (10/16) and Senate Banking (10/17) Committees next week. Here are some helpful questions for committee members to ask.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

After New Reports of Stolen Data, U.S. PIRG To Congress: Stop Letting Equifax off the Hook

Today Equifax admitted to losing information for over 2 million more Americans. Here's our release explaining why it's time for Congress to follow the lead of several states and hold Equifax accountable, insead of letting it off the hook.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Argument in Case Affecting Consumers Nationwide

U.S. PIRG experts comment on a case heard before the Supreme Court Monday concerning whether American Express rules preventing merchants from steering customers to alternative lower-cost cards violate the antitrust laws. Hint: We agree with and supported several states that brought the case on behalf of their citizens. We also make the point that unless the states prevail, the practices of dominant tech platforms like Google and Amazon and Facebook will also be immunized from action.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

Consumer Advocates Explain Crucial Public Interest in a Strong CFPB

The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) independence from external political influence is crucial to the agency’s mission of protecting consumers, 10 groups, including U.S. PIRG Education Fund, told a U.S. appellate court today in an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The groups are supporting the appeal of CFPB Deputy Director Leandra English in her lawsuit against the President and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney over the proper leadership of the Bureau in the absence of a Senate-confirmed director.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

We Back Legislation to Hold Credit Bureaus Accountable To Consumer-Victims For Breaches

Since the massive Equifax data breach, three things, among others, have been made very clear: (1) A credit bureau breach is worse than other breaches, because the bureaus hold a vast trove of our personal information useful to identity thieves; (2) The bureaus treat us with disdain, as products, not customers; (3) The credit bureaus are largely unaccountable to consumers. Our statement in suppport of the Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Mark Warner  "Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act" to hold large credit reporting agencies (CRAs) - including Equifax - accountable for data breaches involving consumer data."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

Consumer Advocates File in Support of Acting CFPB Director Leandra English

This is a joint press release from U.S. PIRG Education Fund and other leading consumer and civil rights organizations explaining our amicus (friend of the court) brief filed today in support of acting CFPB director Leandra English. English was appointed acting director by outgoing director Richard Cordray, but the President has claimed authority to appoint Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney to simultaneously be acting director of the Consumer Bureau. English seeks a preliminary injunction blocking the Mulvaney appointment.

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Big Banks Bigger Fees

Since Congress largely deregulated consumer deposit (checking and savings) accounts beginning in the early 1980s, the PIRGs have tracked bank deposit account fee changes and documented the banks’ long-term strategy to raise fees, invent new fees and make it harder to avoid fees.

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Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Budget, Financial Reform, Transportation

Greasing the Wheels

In the wake of the Minnesota I-35 bridge collapse there was enormous public outcry and recognition of the need to repair our crumbling infrastructure. Americans expected public officials to respond to the tragedy with a large scale effort to address the nearly 73,000 structurally deficient bridges in this country. The findings in this report suggest that did not happen.

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Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Budget, Democracy, Financial Reform

Forgiving Fraud and Failure

Companies with immediate past histories of shoddy work and fraudulent practices are being rewarded with billions of dollars in federal contracts. The data suggest that the process by which the federal government currently spends $422 billion per year in taxpayer funds is insufficient to ensure that the American people receive good quality for goods and services purchased for the American people.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Questions Congress Should Ask CFPB Director Next Week | Ed Mierzwinski

CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger will deliver the statutory “Semi-Annual Report of the CFPB” to the House Financial Services (10/16) and Senate Banking (10/17) Committees next week. Here are some helpful questions for committee members to ask.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

Data Privacy Can't Be Assured Without States and Consumers | Ed Mierzwinski

Recently, the CEOs who make up the Business Roundtable renewed their demand that Congress pass a federal privacy “standard” that preempts stronger state laws. That's the wrong way to go because Congress only does a good job protecting consumers either after a disaster (e.g., Wall Street's collapse of the economy) or after states lead the way. We shouldn't have to wait for a disaster. Learn more.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

House Committee Takes Actions To Clean Up Credit Bureau Mistakes | Ed Mierzwinski

In committee votes this week and last week, the House Financial Services Committee sent a package of credit reporting reforms on to the House floor. It's the first major Congressional action to rein in the so-called Big 3 credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian and Trans Union - and other smaller, specialized bureaus and credit scoring companies, since 2003. The Big 3 national credit bureaus have been the most complained about financial firms to the CFPB for four years running, predating the massive Equifax data breach.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

As CFPB Reviews Overdraft Rules, UK Regulator Makes Pro-Consumer Changes | Ed Mierzwinski

As the CFPB conducts a ten-year regulatory review of the Overdraft Rule established by the pre-CFPB regulators in 2010, the UK's Financial Conduct Authority has announced sweeping changes to address what it calls a "dysfunctional" overdraft market. The US system prohibits overdraft fees on debit and ATM transactions unless you opt-in to fee-based "standard overdraft protection," but the fees average over $32 per overdraft and CFPB has accused some banks of deceptive marketing of the service. Meanwhile, the UK's FCA is banning fixed fee overdrafts and requiring UK banks to treat overdrafts as loans subject to reasonable interest rates. We've asked CFPB to ban overdrafts on debit and ATM transactions.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Consumer Privacy Fight In Congress Intensifies | Ed Mierzwinski

The media are reporting that efforts led by BigTech and BigPhone to push Congress to enact a self-serving umbrella privacy law on Capitol Hill are stalling. But that's only for now; they are still pushing hard. Pushback from legislators with stronger state laws is helping slow them down. So are the welcome efforts of civil rights colleagues to demand that digital and algorithmic decisions not discriminate. There's an important civil rights briefing later this afternoon on Capitol Hill. Learn more. 

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Blog Post

Polls show voters, across party lines, want both a strong CFPB and strong Wall Street, payday lender and debt collector oversight. Will the next Congress listen to them and undo this Administration's myriad rollbacks of consumer and investor financial protections?

News Release | U.S.PIRG

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. 

Blog Post

Our latest report, last week, found July set yet a fifth consecutive month of record consumer complaints to the CFPB. Complaints about credit report mistakes, always among the leaders, have surged dramatically during the pandemic. The CFPB hasn't done anything about it, but Congress has an opportunity in its next relief package to ban negative credit reporting.

Blog Post

On Monday, the U.S. House approved H.R. 5332, the Protecting Your Credit Score Act of 2020 (Gottheimer-NJ). U.S. PIRG joined other leading advocates of credit reporting reform in a support letter to the House last week. The bill takes a number of steps to make it easier to fix credit reporting errors.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

U.S. PIRG Education Fund, the Student Borrower Protection Center and Consumer Action have released a report recommending that  CFPB should use the full extent of its authority to take immediate action to strengthen its consumer complaint tool, hold companies accountable for providing complete and timely responses to consumers, and leverage consumer complaints related to the pandemic to support oversight and regulatory action to protect consumers.

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