The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Is Making Enemies in All the Right Places

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 6, 2024 ~

Fresh off a big win at the U.S. Supreme Court on May 16, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is wasting no time in its heady pursuit of financial bad actors preying on the little guy.

On Monday, the federal agency announced it was creating a public registry to help law enforcement, investors and the public check the history of repeat offenders in finance. The CFPB already offers consumers who have been victimized by a financial firm the ability to file a public complaint with the CFPB. The agency then quickly demands a written response from the alleged wrongdoer. Repeat offenders dislike the fact that these complaints go into a permanent database at the CFPB, which can be mined by the public, reporters, attorneys and prosecutors looking for patterns of fraud. (For how Wall Street On Parade put that complaint database to good use, read our report: The Apple Credit Card Provided through Goldman Sachs Has Created a Living Hell According to Consumer Complaints.)

On Tuesday, the CFPB released a circular letting financial firms know that if they sneak deceptive and/or illegal terms into the fine print of their consumer contracts they risk getting an enforcement action from the CFPB. One example cited was the Truth in Lending Act, which prohibits fine print in mortgage contracts that purport to force homeowners into mandatory arbitration (claiming to remove the option of a court proceeding) to deal with a mortgage dispute.

The Supreme Court case in May, where the independent funding of the CFPB was under attack by multiple forces hostile to a gutsy federal consumer protection agency, was just the latest in a long series of attempts to kill the CFPB since its creation under the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation of 2010.

Back in 2015, a political front group called the American Action Network launched a $500,000 ad campaign against the CFPB during the Republican presidential debate. The campaign outrageously attempted to cast the CFPB as a communist organization. One ad featured giant banners hanging from a front wall with the faces of then CFPB Director, Richard Cordray, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, who had been instrumental in creating the agency — in a nod to Soviet dictator images.

The advertisement was a masterpiece of misinformation, overtly suggesting that the job of the CFPB is to deny car loans and mortgages to regular folks seeking credit. The agency, in fact, has zero involvement with approving credit applications. Its job is to root out and punish financial institutions that are ripping off customers. Just four months before the ad campaign was unveiled, the recidivist bank, Citigroup, was ordered by the CFPB to reimburse an estimated $700 million to 7 million of its credit card customers for deceptive marketing and billing for services that were never provided.

The mysterious American Action Network (AAN) behind the deceptive ad campaign is a dark money group that has battled at the Federal Election Commission and in federal courts to keep its dark money donors a secret from the American people. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has been fighting to open AAN’s dark secrets to some public sunshine for more than a decade.

In a brief filed with the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on July 28, 2023, CREW wrote as follows:

“Over the past thirteen years, AAN has spent more than $150 million to influence federal elections while depriving Americans of knowledge about ‘[t]he sources of [their] candidate’s financial support’… AAN’s patronage, which only grows, has placed benefitted officials ‘in the pocket’ of the ‘moneyed interests’ that they know fund AAN while evading public accountability.”

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