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Bay State Pushes Back on Efforts to Curtail Consumer Protections

Supporters of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau held a 6th Birthday party in Boston, but they warn lobbyists are hard at work in D.C. trying to kill the agency. (MASSPIRG)
Supporters of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau held a 6th Birthday party in Boston, but they warn lobbyists are hard at work in D.C. trying to kill the agency. (MASSPIRG)
July 24, 2017

BOSTON -- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turned six years old on Friday, and along with a birthday cake, New Englanders are getting a warning that could affect tens of thousands of Bay State consumers.

Janet Domenitz, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG), said people who are taken advantage of by credit card companies, mortgage lenders and debt collectors all have benefited from having a strong federal agency on their side since the CFPB was created.

"And in that short amount of time, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has returned nearly $12 billion to 29 million consumers that were cheated by illegal practices,” Domenitz said.

According to a report from the CFPC, that includes at least 21,000 people in Massachusetts.

The CFPB was part of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation package. The Trump administration wants to reduce funding for the agency as part of scaling back what it sees as excessive regulations harmful to business.

Domenitz described the halls of Congress as crawling with Wall Street lobbyists who are dead-set on killing the bureau.

"The shot was already fired in the House of Representatives,” she said. "They passed the Financial Choice Act, which basically repeals the bureau's independence and eliminates most of its tools for protecting consumers."

The bureau made its mark after the Wells Fargo scandal, in which bank employees opened thousands of new accounts without customers’ knowledge or approval.

"It was the CFPB that took the lead in punishing this bank, and holding it accountable with a $100 million fine,” Domenitz said. "You know, that's the kind of thing that would have gone undetected if it weren't for the consumer 'cops on the beat' at the CFPB."

With the measure now headed to the Senate, Domenitz noted that local consumers can be grateful that both Massachusetts Senators are opposing the measure because they want to see the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau continue.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA