Did You Miss The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau Anniversary Monday?
Elizabeth Warren's new book, A Fighting Chance, makes it pretty clear that I'm not the only one who thinks Capital One is one big scam and nothing-- at least up on top-- but a nest of crooks and thieves. In the book she talks about how they cheated their own clients and how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's first action was to order them to pay $150 million to two million consumers for selling them credit card products they could not use or did not want. So anyone think I would ever in a million years do business with these gonifs? Sure, the same day I do business with Steve Israel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz or Joe Crowley!
So a couple of months ago I got an official-looking letter from the crooks known as Capital One about the credit card I have with them. Except I don't. It even had the last few digits of a number. I was alarmed. I called them and asked what it was all about. The operator was an asshole-- until I told her my next call would be to the CFPB. Everything changed and she said she would delete the account. I told her to please do that and then asked her to tell me how exactly a credit card I had never applied for was active and how they got all my personal information. She said she isn't allowed to say.
So I called CFPB and lodged a formal complaint. At the end of the complaint process they ask you to suggest how the culprit should be handled. I suggested they close down Capital One and throw the CEO and Chairman of the Board into prison for as long as possible since word would get out in the bankster community and a few other banksters might think it wise to forgo this kind of predatory behavior. The CFPB sent me a few letters about how the process was going along over the weeks.
And then I got another letter from Capital One answering my complaint and guaranteeing me they had closed the account. Two weeks letter I got another letter from them-- with the same credit card number-- trying to get more personal information from me. When I called to complain to them again the operator refused to even discuss it unless I gave her my Social Security number. I have to find some time to call the CFPB again. (I'm on the road now and don't have my paperwork handy.)
Monday MassLive.com ran an article by Robert Rizzuto about the success the CFPB has been having since Elizabeth Warren invented it and got it written into statute 3 years ago. For one thing, they've been instrumental in returning over $4 billion scammed from customer by shady banks and other bankstery operations.
And as Monday marks the agency's three-year anniversary, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the architect of the CFPB, says the bureau's many documented success stories not only justify its existence but highlight its effectiveness.Aside from getting back the $4 billion the banksters have stolen from their customers, the CFPB put rules in place "to protect consumers from a whole host of dangerous financial products and to make sure that companies can't issue the kinds of deceptive mortgages that contributed to millions of foreclosures [and they] helped tens of thousands of consumers resolve complaints against financial institutions that cheated them." A very optimistic Senator Warren, on the anniversary of the agency:
One of these stories centers on a family from Hull, Massachusetts. The father and son, only identified as Harry and Ari, respectively, document their story via a web video released by the CFPB late last week.
Ari, a self-described Iraq military veteran, said he was stationed in El Paso, Texas when he purchased a car prior to deployment, but soon found the terms of his auto loan were a problem.
"I found out about the program that gave me the car loan just by driving off base. There’s car dealerships everywhere and they all have programs tailored towards servicemembers," Ari said in the video. "When the dealership found out that I was a soldier, they promised me… they’d put me in a car I could afford."
Ari gave his father Harry power of attorney over his affairs while he served in Iraq, and it was he who found the terms of the automobile loan to be "unsustainable."
"At some point I decided there would be a need to lodge a formal complaint against this company because they were victimizing soldiers," Harry said in the video. "And I wrote to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington, DC, a detailed letter of my son’s experience and my knowledge of other soldiers who had been victimized in this way."
When the CFPB investigated, they found no wrongdoing pertaining to the specific terms of Ari's loan, but they did end up finding multiple other instances of deceptive practices and efforts to victimize servicemembers by car dealerships. In the end, the CFPB recouped $6.5 million for military members and changed the system to require more transparency and increased disclosures relating to the terms of car loans.
And to Warren, a consumer advocate turned politician who was at the center of the conversation to create the agency, stories like this make the CFPB worth fighting for.
"It's important that the CFPB is there to help protect servicemembers, veterans, and families who are targeted by scams and unfair financial practices," Warren said in an email to MassLive.com. "The consumer agency is a great resource for anyone who has been cheated by credit card companies, mortgage lenders, and other financial institutions, and it is already making a difference for people here in Massachusetts and across the country."
The big banks today are dramatically bigger than they were in 2008 and they are taking on new risks, and I think that means we need a 21st Century Glass-Steagall law to break them up. But I celebrate the progress we've had so far: When big banks have to listen to their customers a little more, the playing field starts to level out just a little bit more.At the same time, Marianne Williamson penned a post for HuffPo, an open letter to Hillary Clinton. Like so many of us, Williamson would like to see a woman president and she feels Hillary has a lot of qualifications and would "know what to do from Day 1... But none of that is enough to get my vote, or the vote of a lot of people I know. We only want to vote for you if you run like hell away from that corporate box you've landed in. I'm telling you, Hillary. The American people have become hip to what's happening. We know now that Wall Street runs the country, and we don't like it. And for many of us, we don't want to vote for you if Wall Street runs you too... I want you to support reinstating Glass-Steagall-- not just wink at Wall Street while sipping its champagne."
The big banks spent more than a million dollars a day lobbying against financial reforms, and top lobbyists said that killing off the consumer agency was their number one priority. Even now, the Republicans continue the attack, introducing bills that would take the legs out from under the agency.
We didn't have the lobbying muscle or the money that the big banks had. But we got that agency because we fought for it. We joined forces online and through groups, and we made our voices heard. And now, after three years, it's starting to work.
I would have loved to see Williamson run against sleazy Blue Dog/New Dem Adam Schiff instead of moving a few blocks west into Henry Waxman's district to run against him. I doubt she'll decide to take on Schiff next time but I'm thankful that she's staying in the public forum with her powerful voice and important and unbought perspective.