Minnesota residents head to Congress to fight for sensible financial protections for consumers

Experts

Staff Attorney
Media Director

Congress considering legislation that guts the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau 

May 10, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – John Lukach and Chase Turner, both of St. Paul, are joining over 100 other consumers and advocates today from 36 states across the country on Wednesday, May 10, to urge lawmakers in Congress to oppose efforts to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  Lukach and Turner will be meeting with Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and Representative Keith Ellison, whose support for the CFPB will help determine the future of the CFPB.

Lukach and Turner are traveling to Washington, D.C. to participate in Consumer Lobby Day, organized by the Consumer Federation of America and co-sponsored by other groups, including Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports.  The lobbying effort is taking place as Congress gets ready to vote on legislation that would severely limit the ability of the CFPB to protect consumers from unfair and abusive financial practices.

Lukach turned to the CFPB in 2015 after he found himself struggling to pay his very high monthly student loan bill.  Lukach contacted Navient, his loan servicer, to investigate more affordable payment options to avoid falling behind on his loan.  But he found it impossible to get any assistance from Navient’s customer service representatives who offered no options to help him stay current with his loan.  That’s when he contacted the CFPB.

“After filing a complaint with the CFPB, I received a call from Navient’s consumer ambassador within two days who explained several different payment options available to me,” said Lukach.  “Without the help of the CFPB, I never would have known how to navigate the very unfriendly Navient customer service bureaucracy.”

Chase Turner discovered that Wells Fargo had issued new debit and credit card accounts to him and his wife without their consent.  At the time, Turner was trying to simplify his bank account accounts and spent two hours at his bank branch trying to do so. Instead, he ended up with additional accounts with higher fees, something he had been assured by the bank would not happen.

“We were finally able to get Wells Fargo to reverse the charge, but what if we had not been so vigilant,” said Turner.  “I’m grateful that the CFPB is looking out for consumers and working to protect us from banks that take advantage of their customers.”

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on a bill in mid-May that would eliminate the CFPB’s authority to supervise banks, credit reporting agencies, and payday lenders.  The watchdog would lose its ability to stop unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices.  The bill even blocks the CFPB’s authority to conduct education campaigns to help consumers make smarter financial decisions and would prevent the CFPB from making public the complaints it collects from consumers who have been mistreated by financial institutions.

Under the bill, the CFPB would also lose its crucial independence from banking industry control.  The CFPB’s director could be fired at will by the President, unlike other banking regulators, and the agency’s budget would be subject to the annual congressional appropriations process, opening it up to further attack by financial industry lobbyists and other opponents determined to undermine the agency and shrink its budget.  Similar legislation to create more bureaucracy at the CFPB and politicize its budget has been introduced in the Senate.

“The CFPB works tirelessly to make sure consumers are treated fairly and protected from financial fraud and rip-offs that can drain their wallets,” said Christina Tetrault, staff attorney for Consumers Union.   “The CHOICE Act is the wrong choice for consumers because it guts the CFPB and would leave consumers vulnerable to scams, hidden fees, and costly financial gotchas.”

The CFPB was established as part of the measures passed by Congress in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.  The Bureau works to ensure consumers are treated fairly by establishing basic standards that banks and other financial companies must follow and by policing abuses in the marketplace. Since the CFPB opened its doors in 2011, it has won almost $12 billion in refunds and relief for an estimated 29 million Americans who’ve been defrauded by financial companies.