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

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.

> Keep Reading
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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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Equifax penalty is a “sweetheart deal” that leaves consumers at risk

Our response to Equifax paying a $650 million penalty for exposing the social security numbers of 148 million Americans to identity theft.

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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

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News Release | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

NEW SURVEY SHOWS FREE CHECKING WIDELY AVAILABLE AT SMALL BANKS BUT BANKS STILL HIDING FEES FROM CONSUMERS

A survey of hundreds of banks and credit unions in 24 states and the District of Columbia found that free checking remains available at more than 6 out of 10 small banks and credit unions but was only found at one-quarter of surveyed big banks (those with over $10 billion in deposits). The survey released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group also revealed that fewer than half of branches surveyed obeyed their legal duty to fully disclose fees to prospective customers on the first request, while 12% provided no fee information at all.

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New Consumer Agency Takes Over Thursday as Nation’s Consumer Bank Cop

Leading consumer groups today announced the results of a poll showing that an overwhelming majority of likely voters both support a new consumer agency (74%) and want Wall Street held “accountable” (77%), along with a report documenting “10 reasons” consumers need the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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News Release | Budget, Financial Reform, Tax

Senator Carl Levin Introduces Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act

The Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act is a timely and critically important proposal that seeks to stem flight of capital from this country. The bill will force open and honest accounting of profits. It will put an end to the price and profit shifting that allows companies to engage in such pervasive tax avoidance.

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New Survey Shows Banks Still Hiding Fees from Consumers

A survey of more than 350 bank branches released today by the Maryland Public Interest Research Group revealed that fewer than half of branches obeyed their legal duty to fully disclose fees to prospective customers, while one in four provided no fee information at all.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Budget, Financial Reform

Maryland Earns “C” in Annual Report on Transparency of Government Spending

Maryland got a “C” when it comes to openness about government spending, according to "Following the Money 2011: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data," the second annual report of its kind by the Maryland Public Interest Research Group (Maryland PIRG).

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Latest Trojan Horse Data Breach Bill (HR6743-Luetkemeyer) Could Be Called "Equifax Protection Act" | Ed Mierzwinski

On Thursday, 13 September, the House Financial Services Committee is to consider the latest in a long series of data security and data breach bills that Congress takes up at the request of the banks. These Trojan Horse bills come riding in with few, if any, protections riding in the saddle, but massive elimination of stronger state laws hidden in the belly of the beasts. The proposal, HR6743, the Consumer Information Notification Requirement Act (Luetkemeyer (MO)), might also be called the “Equifax Protection Act.”

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

We Join Leading Groups Urging SEC To Strengthen Weak Investor Best Interest Proposal | Ed Mierzwinski

We've joined leading consumer, civil rights, labor and older American organizations in a comment letter urging the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to strengthen its proposed "Regulation Best Interest" intended to ensure that all broker-dealers and other individuals and firms offering investment advice act do so in a fiduciary capacity, or in the best interest of their investor-clients. (Right now, it doesn't).

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

Public CFPB Database Comment Period Ends Monday, 4 June at Midnight | Ed Mierzwinski

Monday, June 4, at midnight (ET) marks the deadline for filing public comments on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s latest inward-facing Request For Information (RFI); this one is on the future of the public Consumer Complaint Database, which has been disparaged for years by various bank industry actors and their coin-operated think tanks but most recently by the CFPB’s acting director, Mick Mulvaney. Here's why we are fighting to keep the database public.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Over 80 Groups Oppose S.2155 & its Benefits for the Credit Bureaus | Mike Litt

Today, we sent a letter addressed to all members of the House of Represenatives in opposition to S. 2155, or as we call it, the Bank Lobbyist Act. We are joined by 84 other groups and leaders, representing communities, consumers, servicemember, and workers across the country. In particular, this letter explains how the bill benefits Equifax and the other national credit bureaus at the expense of average consumers and our military servciemembers. 

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Will Flawed CFPB Wells Fargo Consent Order Be Reopened To Help Victims? | Ed Mierzwinski

Questions are being raised. Will the ballyhooed $1 Billion CFPB settlement with Wells Fargo be reopened because it clearly favors the wrongdoer at the expense of the victims? There is a reopening precedent for bad consent orders, which we discuss below.

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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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