Reining in Wall Street

STANDING UP FOR CONSUMERS IN THE FINANCIAL MARKETPLACE—For more than 20 years, Consumer Program Director Ed Mierzwinski has helped us stand up against big banks and credit card companies.

A Consumer Cop On the Financial Beat

You work hard for your money. You should be able to save, invest and generally manage your money without fear of being trapped, tricked or ripped off by the institutions you are trusting with your financial future. And from the 2008 economic collapse, we know how big of an impact those institutions can have on our economy when they play fast and loose with our money. 

Since 2009, the solution has been clear. We need to have fair, clear, transparent and enforceable rules that protect consumers in the financial marketplace. Now, we know we can get there through the work of an agency that has those principles at the core of its mission — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.   

The CFPB Gets the Job Done

Despite the fact that the CFPB is not widely known, we’ve already seen their financial oversight return nearly $12 billion to consumers … in just five years. The CFPB holds big banks, debt collectors, and lenders accountable. Here are a few examples of some of the cases the CFPB has taken on:


When American Honda Finance used discriminatory pricing to rip off African-American, Hispanic, and Asia/ Pacific Island borrowers who paid too much for car loans, the CFPB returned $24 million to these consumers.


The Department of Justice and 47 states joined the CFPB in a $216 million action against JP Morgan Chase Bank for illegal debt collection practices affecting over half a million Americans.


When it was discovered that Wells Fargo employees were opening unauthorized debit and credit accounts using their customer's information, the CFPB fined Wells Fargo $100 million for fraud.


The CFPB fined Equifax andTransUnion — two of the three largest credit reporting agencies — $5 million for selling inflated credit scores to consumers that were different from ones actually used by lenders and returned $17 million to those harmed by the deception.

But the CFPB doesn't just help consumers get their money back, it levels the financial playing field. The CFPB has several specialized departments for veterans, senior citizens, new homeowners, college students, and low-income consumers that seek to educate the public on how to stay safe and provide them with the tools they need to keep their finances secure.

Tell Your Senators: Stand Up For Consumers

Almost every day we hear about some new way of tricking, trapping and ripping off consumers. And despite the fact that tricks like these led directly to the 2008 financial collapse, some Wall Street banks are spending upwards of a million dollars every day to roll back the rules and the CFPB — the very agency that was created to keep them in check. Now, many legislators in Washington want to defund or destroy the CFPB.

Effective consumer protections aren't some sort of luxury we can't afford — they're hallmarks of a great country. As founders and leaders of the movement to create and protect the CFPB, we're working to make sure that our success not only sticks, but that we can build upon it.

Issue updates

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Our Statement on Senate Passage of Sweeping Bank Deregulation Bill, S2155

Our statement on final passage by the U.S. Senate of a sweeping bank deregulation bill: Excerpt: "“It’s very hard to watch the Senate vote to ignore the painful lessons from the causes of the Great Recession 10 years ago. The warning signs are plain to see."

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Bank Deregulation Bill's Free Credit Freeze Section Tweaked, But Still Preempts Better State Laws

Here's our statement on modest changes to the free credit freeze provision of S2155, the massive bank regulation deregulation package on the Senate floor. The changes aren't good enough because the states would still be preempted from better protecting their consumers and some existing state laws would be rolled back.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Three Bills in Congress this Week Would Let Equifax Off the Hook

Remember Equifax? It's one of the nation's Big 3 credit bureaus. It's based in Atlanta. Still not sure? Oh, maybe you'll remember this: Equifax finally admitted in September that months earlier it had lost 145 million consumer records, including Social Security Numbers, to hackers. Here's our latest release explaining that instead of holding Equifax accountable, this week Congress is busy trying to help Equifax.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

What You Haven’t Heard About that Bad Banking Bill; It Preempts State Identity Theft Reforms | Mike Litt

We're opposing S2155 on the Senate floor this week. The main message against in the media has been that it puts mortgage borrowers at risk of bad loans and racial discrimination. Worse, it puts our economy at risk by removing important bank regulator tools to rein in risky practices by giant and big banks. For that matter, it could even allow risky practices to migrate to community banks. But there's more. The bill's so-called consumer protection provisions intended to offset its rollbacks, including its free credit freeze, aren't that good and preempt stronger state actions.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Credit Bureaus Let Wrongdoers Run Amok, Disrupt Mortgage-Seekers | Ed Mierzwinski

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."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Senate Immunizes Wells Fargo, Equifax and Other Financial Wrongdoers From Consumer Lawsuits

Our statement sharply criticizing Tuesday's Senate vote to overturn an important Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule allowing consumers, including veterans and servicemembers, to band together to go to court against Wells Fargo, Equifax and other financial wrongdoers. The Vice-President's vote broke a 50-50 tie.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Interactive Map Shows Consumers In 42 States Have No Access To Free Credit Freezes

We've created an interactive map showing all the details of placing credit freezes on your credit report-- where the freeze is free for anyone, where temporary thaws/lifts are free, and where senior citizens, children, other protected classes pay less (or sometimes more). Only previous ID theft victims get freezes for free in every state; that's why we're calling for a new federal free freeze law for everyone else after the Equifax breach. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Equifax CEO Retirement Not Enough To Clean Up Credit Bureaus, Need CFPB

Here's our statement by Consumer Program Director Ed Mierzwinski regarding the announcement from Equifax that the retirement of the CEO who presided over its massive data breach and "inadequate, maddening" response was not enough to clean up the credit bureaus. Congress also needs to act to provide free credit freezes for all and to force all of the Big 3 credit bureaus to do a better job.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Statement On CFPB's Rule Restoring Rights To Take Wrongdoers To Court

Financial wrongdoers have long used mandatory arbitration clauses buried in small-print, take-it-or-leave-it contracts to prevent consumers from banding together to have their day in court. Our statement on the CFPB's important new rule restoring consumer rights to join class actions follows.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Statement Commending New Military Consumer Enforcement Act

Read our statement commending the introduction of the Military Consumer Enforcement Act by Sens. Jack Reed (RI), Sherrod Brown (OH) and others. These senators have the right idea-- strengthen the CFPB’s ability to protect servicemembers, veterans and their families. Why do others want to weaken the CFPB?

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Have Banker Deregulation Demands Jumped the Shark? | Ed Mierzwinski

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.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

The End for "Rent-A-Tribe" Payday Lending Schemes? | Ed Mierzwinski

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.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Consumer Bureau Threatened By President's Assertion He Can Select Temporary Director | Ed Mierzwinski

With the departure yesterday of director Richard Cordray from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we don't doubt that the President has the authority to nominate a new director of the Bureau. But the President's assertion later that day that he can and would appoint his own temporary or acting director -- at odds with the plain language of two laws --  places the bureau's leadership in crisis.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Halloween Over, But Congress Mixing Up Witches' Brew of Bank Rollbacks Anyway | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, the Senate Banking Committee announced a bi-partisan bill designed to weaken bank regulations in numerous ways. Today the House Financial Services Committee votes on nearly two dozen bills. The worst would allow payday lenders and other seeking to avoid strong state laws under a new rent-a-bank scheme. It's Halloween again on Capitol Hill, with tricks for consumers and taxpayers, and treats for banks and payday lenders.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

We Warn Congress: After Equifax, Firms Will Step Up Trojan Horse Efforts to Eliminate State Privacy Laws | Ed Mierzwinski

Like clockwork, after any big data breach is disclosed, powerful special interests seek to turn the problem into a bigger problem for consumers by  using it as an opportunity to enact some narrow federal legislation that broadly eliminates state data breach notice, state data security and other privacy protections.  I testified yesterday in the House warning of their Trojan Horse efforts, which not only take away existing laws, but deny any new laws, even on new problems identified. 

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Blog Post

Today, new CFPB director Kathy Kraninger testifies to Congress for the first time. The House Financial Services Committee will need to drill down with tough questions. Why? Kraninger's written pre-filed statement reads like an answer to a warped question from old television's Sergeant Joe Friday: "Just the irrelevant, off-point facts, ma'am." The committee should also look to the cogent testimony of consumer, civil rights, military family and student advocates also appearing today.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

Today, U.S. PIRG joined leading consumer, privacy and civil rights groups to issue a Privacy Protection and Digital Rights Framework that must form the basis of any new federal privacy law. The release comes as a phalanx of big tech firms and their allies is urging Congress to instead enact a new law that serves them, but preempts stronger state laws and allows all current intrusive industry data collection, sharing and surveillance practices to continue unfettered by any aspect of consumer control or rights.

Blog Post

As the year 2018 came to an end, U.S. PIRG, Americans for Financial Reform and AFR members filed the last in in a seemingly interminable series of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Requests for Information. Although there was no clear intent to this "Data Collection" RFI, we, and allied academic scholars who filed a separate comment, both inferred it as another opportunity for industry opponents of the CFPB to attack the Bureau's consumer protection mission -- this time by challenging its collection and use of data to evaluate and respond to financial marketplace problems that harm consumers. 

Blog Post

Today, 7 member groups of the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) asked each of their national Data Protection Authorities to investigate Google Android's smartphone locational data collection practices following an investigative report by the Norwegian Consumer Council (Forbrukerrådet) finding that Google may be in violation of the new European GDPR privacy law. All the groups are members of the U.S. PIRG-backed TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue, which itself  followed up on the report and EU actions with a letter to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Meanwhile, as the Senate prepared for an afternoon FTC oversight hearing today where Facebook may be a focus, we joined leading groups in a separate letter to complain to the FTC about its biased staff report that adopts unsubstantiated industry claims in defense of an FTC call to the administration for weak baseline privacy choices. 

Blog Post

Next year, a highly-anticipated privacy and data rights battle will occur in Congress. Powerful special interests from Google to Facebook are responding to the new European General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) by seeking to quash any similar effort to protect U.S. consumers while simultaneously seeking to preempt a new California privacy law before it takes effect in 2020. Will we continue as data collector products, not their customers, or will we gain control over our own financial DNA? The state PIRGs are in this one; guess which side we're on. Today we joined 34 leading groups in issuing shared Privacy Principles.

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