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Waters Introduces Legislation to Put Consumers First

This Bill Undoes Many of the Trump Administration’s Anti-Consumer Changes to Undermine the CFPB

Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Financial Services, announced the introduction of H.R. 6972, the Consumers First Act, a bill to block the Trump Administration’s anti-consumer agenda and reverse their efforts, led by Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, to dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This legislation is co-sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Rep. Al Green (D-TX), Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), members of the House Financial Services Committee.

“It is clear that President Trump and his budget director are doing everything in their power to roll back consumer protections, strip the Consumer Bureau of its resources and prioritize Wall Street at the expense of consumers,” said Ranking Member Waters. “My bill, the Consumers First Act, would reverse the harmful changes the Trump Administration has imposed on the Consumer Bureau by restoring the agency’s supervisory and enforcement powers and increasing the transparency and accountability needed for the agency to carry out its important mission. Under prior leadership, the Consumer Bureau returned $12 billion to nearly 30 million consumers who have been harmed by financial institutions, handled over 1.3 million consumer complaints about financial institutions, and made the financial marketplace stronger and fairer for all Americans. But under Trump and Mulvaney’s direction, consumers come last. This critically important agency must get back to work fulfilling its statutory purpose and actually protect Americans from unfair, deceptive or abusive practices. I call on my colleagues in Congress to put consumers first by supporting this legislation to ensure the Consumer Bureau’s statutorily mandated mission no longer continues to be undermined.”

“The Consumers First Act would send a clear message to get the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau back on track to carrying out its mission of protecting consumers, and in particular to restoring the structures it needs to fight discrimination in lending and stand up for student loan borrowers,” said Linda Jun, Senior Policy Counsel at Americans for Financial Reform.

H.R. 6972 is supported by Americans for Financial Reform, Allied Progress, California Reinvestment Coalition, Center for Global Policy Solutions, Center for Responsible Lending, Connecticut Fair Housing Center, Consumer Action, National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients), National Association of Consumer Advocates, Public Citizen, and Reinvestment Partners.

The Consumers First Act combats 10 different ways the Trump Administration has attempted to sabotage the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:

The Trump Administration has Muzzled the Federal Consumer Watchdog

  • Politicizing the agency: The President unlawfully appointed his Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director, Mick Mulvaney, to run the Consumer Bureau as Acting Director, allowing a White House official to run what should be an independent regulatory agency, creating potential conflicts of interest arising from Mulvaney’s dual role running the OMB and Consumer Bureau. Once embedded, Mulvaney dispatched a number of political appointees to control the work of the professional, career employees.
  • Reorganizing the agency: Changed the roles of several established offices that previously led the Consumer Bureau’s effective efforts to better protect and empower vulnerable consumers, such as by folding the only unit in the federal government solely dedicated to protecting student loan borrowers from predatory actors into a broader financial education office.
  • Renaming the agency: Renamed the agency in a petty attempt to reduce the public’s awareness of, and significant support for, the agency’s role as the top Federal consumer watchdog.

The Consumers First Act blasts Mulvaney’s unlawful appointment, limits the number of political appointees that may be hired, reestablishes the full duties of enumerated offices, and codifies the commonly used name of the Consumer Bureau.

The Trump Administration has Relaxed Supervision and Enforcement

  • Weakening fair lending enforcement: Stripped the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity of its supervisory and enforcement powers.
  • Eliminating coordination with other agencies: The Department of Education unilaterally rescinded agreements to cooperate with the Consumer Bureau in overseeing student lenders.
  • Blocking payday loan cases: Dismissed an enforcement action against four payday lenders who had allegedly misled customers and charged exorbitantly high interest rates close to 1000 percent.
  • Dismantling financial protections for servicemembers: Eliminated routine supervisory exams for compliance with the Military Lending Act, protecting active-duty servicemembers from price gouging.

The Consumers First Act restores the supervisory and enforcement powers of the fair lending office, reestablishes a dedicated student loan office, reactivates prior agreements promoting effective interagency efforts, scolds Mulvaney for steering the Consumer Bureau away from its primary mission of holding predatory lenders accountable, and requires adequate agency staffing, including for supervision and enforcement, to fully carry out the Consumer Bureau’s statutory mandates.

The Trump Administration has Reduced Transparency and Accountability

  • Suppressing student lending report: Withheld the release of a staff report exposing predatory actions by the nation's largest banks by charging students legally dubious account fees.
  • Attempting to hide consumer complaint database: Tried to hide from the public and state law enforcement agencies more than a million consumer complaints about bad actors’ misdeeds.
  • Ignoring and effectively terminating Consumer Advisory Board (CAB): Fired a panel of outside experts that provided useful feedback for years on the agency’s work.

The Consumers First Act requires the Consumer Bureau to provide Congress with all relevant documents about the suppression of the student lending report, mandates the consumer complaint database remain transparent and publicly accessible, and reinstates the CAB members.

On Monday, Ranking Member Waters and 12 Members of Congress sent a letter to Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, urging him to use the full range of the Committee’s oversight authorities to investigate failures to protect student loan borrowers at the CFPB. Among other changes, the Consumers First Act would resurrect the Office of Students & Young Consumers and empower the office, to aggressively protect student borrowers from unfair, deceptive or abusive practices, free from political suppression.

To view the legislation text, click here.


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