On July 21, 2010, then-President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Typically referred to as “Dodd-Frank” or “Wall Street Reform,” this law notably created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a new federal agency designed to ensure “that markets for consumer financial products and services are fair, transparent, and competitive.” The CFPB officially opened its doors exactly one year later.
In the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, and under its first director, Richard Cordray, the CFPB hit the ground running — returning $12 billion to 31 million consumers under its first director. But since current Director Kathy Kraninger took over, and during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the CFPB has looked the other way.
Advocates who played a role in creating the CFPB, defending it, and now holding it accountable, are doubling down on efforts to make sure the Consumer Bureau does the job it was originally created to do: protect consumers.
Whether you are an advocate or a consumer (or both!), you are invited to join us tomorrow on Twitter to share why it’s important to you that the CFPB returns to its mission. Throughout the day tomorrow, we encourage you to participate in our Twitter “drizzle” (rather than a “storm”), using the hashtags #DoddFrank10 and #ProtectConsumers.
As I prepare what I’ll be sharing on Twitter tomorrow, I’ve been taking stock of where we’ve been and looking forward to the work ahead.
The campaign to defend the CFPB
By the time I decided to become a consumer advocate in 2015, the fights to create the CFPB and confirm its first director, Richard Cordray, had already been waged and won.
The nascent bureau was in its third year of operation when I was inspired to pack up my car and drive cross-country from Las Vegas to D.C. after reading Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s memoir, which included shout-outs to U.S. PIRG and Federal Consumer Campaign Director Ed Mierzwinski for their roles in those fights.
“So how did the people win…there were many champions like Travis Plunkett at Consumer Federation of America and Ed Mierzwinski at PIRG, consumer advocates who have dedicated their lives to fighting for the American people.”
– Senator Elizabeth Warren, A Fighting Chance
Ed and PIRG co-founded Americans for Financial Reform (AFR), which worked alongside then-Professor Elizabeth Warren. Together, the far-reaching coalition of national and local civil rights, community, consumer, faith, labor and small business organizations made sure the CFPB was included in Wall Street Reform, despite Wall Street spending more than a million dollars a day to keep it out of the final draft.
Shortly after I joined PIRG, Wall Street-funded efforts in Congress to strip the CFPB of its ability to do its job grew, as did our campaign to defend the CFPB against those attacks.
U.S. PIRG and many of the state PIRGs canvassed from coast to coast to collect petitions in support of the CFPB, organized press conferences with local groups and elected officials in key states, and released oft-cited reports about the CFPB’s consumer complaints database.
Although President Donald Trump signed bipartisan legislation rolling back some Wall Street Reform protections in 2018, the CFPB proved too popular to weaken in any way and was left unscathed by the rollbacks.
Holding the CFPB Accountable
Richard Cordray stepped down near the end of his five-year term as director of the CFPB in November 2017 to run for governor of Ohio. That’s when the attacks against the CFPB’s mission started coming from the inside. First, under interim Director Mick Mulvaney and then under current Director Kathy Kraninger.
As the CFPB strays farther away from its mission, we’re ramping up our accountability work. We sued the CFPB in June for granting the financial services industry illegal influence over consumer protections. We’ve sounded the alarm on a record number of consumer complaints during COVID-19 (in fact, we just released a new analysis). And we’ve called out the CFPB for greenlighting predatory payday loans during the pandemic.
Whether the attacks come from Congress or from inside the agency, we’re not letting up. After all, defending the CFPB has always been about defending the mission of the CFPB.
That means we’ll be standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow advocates and consumers to make sure the CFPB gets back to doing its job of protecting consumers.
A good place to start is by putting money back in people’s pockets, enforcing fair lending laws, and cracking down on harmful practices, such as abusive debt collection, deceptive overdraft fees and predatory lending.
Consumers deserve nothing less.
Director, Consumer Campaign, PIRG
Mike directs U.S. PIRG’s national campaign to protect consumers on Wall Street and in the financial marketplace by defending the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and works for stronger privacy protections and corporate accountability in the wake of the Equifax data breach. Mike lives in Washington, D.C.