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

Statement on the Quarterly Earnings Announcement By Equifax

We join leading consumer groups in a statement about today's earnings announcement from Equifax. On September 7th the behemoth credit bureau finally announced to the world that, in late July, it had discovered an apparent multi-month intrusion into its systems affecting the Social Security Numbers and other personal information of 143 million consumers (later increased to 145.5 million consumers).

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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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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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Blog Post | Financial Reform

As NY Brings Credit Bureaus To Heel, CFPB Arbitration Study Paves Way Toward New Protections | Ed Mierzwinski

Two big consumer stories so far this week offer hope to consumers victimized by credit bureau errors and, more generally, by an inability to take credit bureaus, credit card companies, banks or payday lenders to court when harmed. On Monday, New York's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman signed a groundbreaking agreement with the Big Three credit bureaus, Equifax, Trans Union and Experian. Then today, the CFPB released a report finding that consumer legal rights are infringed by small-print forced arbitration clauses in credit card and other contracts.  The CFPB will hold a webcast public hearing at 11am Eastern time today (Tuesday) to discuss the report's findings and next steps.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Is Anyone Protecting Your Privacy Or Wallet? Turbotax? Anthem? Apple? The Government? | Ed Mierzwinski

As if recent privacy breaches at the online tax preparer Turbotax and the health insurer Anthem weren't enough, it turns out that low-tech hacks can trick the vaunted Apple Pay system into giving up cash to thieves, too. Meanwhile, while the administration's blueprint for a Privacy Bill of Rights in 2012 was excellent, its new legislative draft from the Department of Commerce could have been written by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There is some good news on privacy, though.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Anthem Customers and Others: Some Advice On Steps To Take After Data Breach | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED (9 Feb.) Retail store data breaches make a mess, but an easy one to clean up and the few consumers who become fraud victims are quickly made whole. The Anthem hackers, on the other hand, reportedly obtained a mother lode of information that could be used to commit a variety of serious frauds, including obtaining your tax refund. Read our tips here. Here's the first: Don't click on any emails claiming to be from Anthem; some may be malicious.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

House Floor Vote on Budget Delayed over Special Interest "Riders" From Wall Street, Other Powerful Interests | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED: Opposition to a controversial provision authored by Citibank forced House leaders to delay consideration of the "CRomnibus" appropriations package just hours before funding for the federal government expired at midnight Thursday. Eventually the bill passed narrowly with the Wall Street provision intact. Action now shifts to the Senate, which has a 48-hour window to pass the bill, but any one Senator can block it under Senate rules. The provision would again allow Wall Street banks to place risky bets with taxpayer-backed funds, and require taxpayers to bail them out if the bets fail, repealing a key protection added in the 2010 Wall Street reform law. 

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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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