Republicans have never wanted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the brainchild of then-Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren in the wake of the financial crisis, to exist. But now that they’re running the federal government, they’re finding some new and innovative ways to shill for banks and other financial institutions.
Since becoming CFPB director in November, former South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney has gone out of his way to make sure the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is rendered absolutely useless when it comes to the goal of protecting consumers from predatory financial institutions. In December, the CFPB changed its mission statement to read that the purpose of the agency was to “help consumer finance markets work by regularly identifying and addressing outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome regulations.” And in January, he relaxed regulations on payday lenders, an industry which gave Mulvaney over $60,000 while he was serving in Congress.
Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, Mulvaney is considering revoking the public’s access to the Consumer Complaint Database, a web portal where Americans can file complaints about financial institutions. Mulvaney’s reasoning for this, the Wall Street Journal says, is that it “contains information that hasn’t been fully vetted by the government,” which may be the first case of anyone in the Trump administration caring to vet anything.
Because the federal government is now a self parody, Mulvaney announced this at a banking conference. “I don’t see anything in here that says I have to run a Yelp for financial services sponsored by the federal government,” Mulvaney said at the American Bankers Association conference, while he held up a copy of Dodd-Frank. Reportedly, ABA conference attendees clapped when he said this. “This is a different bureau than it was under our predecessors,” Mulvaney added. “That is the nature of the business and elections do have consequences.”
Since 2011, the Journal reports, the database has received 1.5 million complaints, including about 320,000 complaints last year as detailed in a report the bureau made to Congress earlier this month. The CFPB also advertises on its website that 97 percent of complaints sent to companies get “timely responses.”
The complaints cover a range of financial products, debt collection (377,300 made since 2011), mortgages (301,600), credit and consumer reporting (138,300), credit cards (132,200), and student loans (54,400), as well as vehicle loans, personal loans and payday loans. A search of the database by financial institution names shows that out of over a million complaints listed, searches for Bank of America got over 74,000 hits, over 62,000 hits for Wells Fargo, over 51,000 for JPMorgan Chase and Co., and over 41,000 hits for Citibank.
“It’s an incredibly important tool that empowers consumers,” Aaron Klein, a policy director at the Brookings Institution, told the Wall Street Journal. “Why would he want to reduce information so people could make less-informed choices?”
That would seem to be the point.