Blog Posts By:

Ed Mierzwinski,
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

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.”

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).

We joined leading consumer organizations to criticize the national bank regulator OCC's new proposal to charter non-bank fintech companies. We called it both illegal and a gateway for online predatory lenders to enter states where high-cost payday lending is banned. Leading state bank regulatory officials also opposed the OCC move, which is also one of the recommendations in a controversial Treasury Department report released the same day.

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.

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.

We've joined complaints that two behemoth firms are in violation of Federal Trade Commission privacy rules. In the first, U.S. PIRG joins the Electronic Privacy Information Center and other groups claiming that a number of Facebook's practices - particularly, its use of facial recognition techniques without consent -- violate a previous 2011 privacy order. The facial recognition practice may also violate PIRG-backed Illinois law. Second, we join the Center for Digital Democracy's filing alleging that Google's YouTube collects information about kids in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). And we haven't forgotten about Equifax.

In the run-up to the 2006-2007 mortgage bubble that led to the total collapse of our financial system in 2008, the Big 3 credit bureaus sold products known as "trigger lists" that aided sketchy mortgage companies in disrupting consumer transactions. The lists were "credited" with making a bad situation worse. Guess what? Longtime syndicated housing columnist Ken Harney warns: "they're back."

Throughout the anger and frustration over the Equifax breach debacle, consumers, reporters and legislators have repeatedly asked me: "Ed, why don't consumers, not credit bureaus, control when their credit reports can be shared or sold?" Now comes U.S. Senator Jack Reed (RI) with a PIRG-backed bill to do just that! 

When a tired TV show desperate for viewers goes over the top with wacky plots, it is said to have "jumped the shark." Unfortunately, even after the Wells Fargo debacle and even as bank profits return to record levels, the "viewers" of bank deregulation demands -- members of Congress -- still have an unslaked appetite for over-the-top, outrageous proposals to take consumer and financial system safety cops off the bank beat. Meanwhile, the public -- by wide, non-partisan margins, wants to keep the cops on the beat.

This month, Scott Tucker, a payday lender who used his proceeds to fund a LeMans racing team, was sentenced to 16 years in jail on federal racketeering and other charges.   Last fall, his former business partner Charles Hallinan, known as the Philadelphia Main Line "godfather" of payday lending, was also convicted of federal racketeering charges. Tucker and Hallinan's main business model? Their claim that their payday loan enterprises were for the benefit of Native American tribal partners and therefore subject to tribal immunity. The authoritative public interest law firm Public Justice speculates: "Tribal Immunity" may no longer be a Get-Out-of-Jail Free Card for payday lenders." It's about time.