Reining in Wall Street

STANDING UP AGAINST THE BIG BANKS AND WALL STREET—For more than 20 years, Consumer Program Director Ed Mierzwinski has helped us stand up against big banks and credit card companies.

A PRO-CONSUMER FISCAL FUTURE

Consumers shouldn't have to worry that their financial institutions are ripping them off, or using tricks and schemes to squeeze money out of them.

Yet for years, federal bank regulators ignored numerous warnings of increasingly predatory mortgage practices, credit card tricks, and unfair overdraft policies used by the big Wall Street banks. They also ignored warnings of risky securities being packaged and sold to investors. In the wake of the resulting financial crisis, U.S. PIRG fought for and successfully urged passage of a strong 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Since winning federal Wall Street reform, we've worked to defend those reforms from the industry's attempts to defang, defund or delay them. In particular, since it began work in July 2011, we've had to defend the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the first federal financial agency with just one job: protecting consumers. However, it took another two-year fight against the opponents of the CFPB to convince the Senate to confirm Bureau's director, Richard Cordray, to a full five-year term. The Senate finally confirmed Cordray in July 2012, eliminating any uncertainty over the CFPB's authority over credit bureaus, payday lenders and other non-bank firms.

The CFPB - in many ways the centerpiece of the broader 2010 Wall Street reforms - has already succeeded in protecting consumers, from students and soldiers to seniors and homeowners. Among the CFPB's successes have been its new regulation of the mortgage markets, its creation of a publicly-available consumer complaint database, and its investigations of the big credit bureaus. The CFPB has also made banks and credit card companies return nearly half a billion dollars to consumers who were treated unfairly.

Yet consumers, taxpayers and investors still face big risks in the financial marketplace. Big banks are allowed to make risky bets with our money, many financial institutions are still finding ways to unfairly squeeze money out of their customers, and financial industry practices still pose risks to the financial system. So in addition to defending the CFPB, we are working to protect investors, taxpayers and the financial system itself:

  • We're supporting a requirement called the Volcker Rule which would prevent big banks from using their “own” money, which includes depositor funds, to place risky bets.
  • We're urging the Commodity Futures Trading Commission not to allow the big banks to hide their reckless financial bets offshore the way that AIG and JP Morgan's London Whale did.
  • We're backing Securities and Exchange Commission rules to require that all public companies, including banks, publish the ratio of compensation between their CEO and their middle-level employees.

In short, we're building a financial regulatory system that guarantees that consumers and taxpayers are protected from predatory practices. And we're fighting to give consumers a seat at the table when it comes to oversight of the nation's financial system.

Issue updates

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group | Financial Reform

Big Banks, Big Overdraft Fees

Overdraft fees are a major source of consumer pain, since they are borne disproportionately by Americans with few financial resources. Through the first three quarters of 2016, 626 large banks reported collecting $8.4 billion in revenue from overdraft and NSF fees, an increase of 3.6 percent over the same period in 2015. American consumers should look to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which has already enforced overdraft regulations and returned millions of dollars to consumers, to take new action to prevent unfair overdraft fees.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Overdrafts continue to hit students hard on campus

Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a report shining a spotlight on contracts between banks and colleges to promote debit cards on campus.  Students continue to get hit hard with overdraft fees attached to their campus bank accounts. According to the report, nearly one in ten consumers in the population with student accounts incurred 10 or more  overdrafts per year, paying, on average, $196 in overdraft fees alone. Below is a detailed analysis by US. PIRG's Chris Lindstrom, who championed the protections that the CFPB is reporting on. This report is one more example of why we need a strong CFPB. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Consumers Should Demand Security Freezes After Massive Yahoo Breach

In the wake of the recently-announced Yahoo data breach -- apparently the largest security breach ever, exposing the personal information of 500 million consumers -- PIRG offers consumer tips, demands that Yahoo provide free security freezes to affected consumers who could be at risk of "phishing" schemes to commit fraud on existing accounts or open new fraudulent accounts.  We also ask: Why did it take Yahoo two years to notify the public?

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

In Closing the Hedge Fund Loophole, an Opportunity for Bipartisanship | Jeremy Flood

It’s no secret that neither Congress nor the leaders of the two major parties can agree on much these days. This is perhaps even more true on tax policy than any other issue. So, when there is bipartisan agreement on sensible tax reform, we should not only take notice, but seize the moment to get something done

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Privacy, Consumer Groups Critical of Facial Recognition Report

We've joined leading privacy and consumer advocates in a news release sharply critical of a supposed "best-practices" report released today by the Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) concerning privacy and facial recognition technology. While the report purports to be the product of a "multi-stakeholder" process, all the leading privacy and consumer stakeholders dropped out of the skewed proceedings many months ago, as the release explains. It concludes: "There is much more lacking in these “best practices,” but there is one good thing: this document helps to make the case for why we need to enact laws and regulations to protect our privacy."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Privacy, Consumer Groups Critical of Facial Recognition Report

We've joined leading privacy and consumer advocates in a news release sharply critical of a supposed "best-practices" report released today by the Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) concerning privacy and facial recognition technology. While the report purports to be the product of a "multi-stakeholder" process, all the leading privacy and consumer stakeholders dropped out of the skewed proceedings many months ago, as the release explains. It concludes: "There is much more lacking in these “best practices,” but there is one good thing: this document helps to make the case for why we need to enact laws and regulations to protect our privacy."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

More Than 100 Groups Insist on No Riders in Spending Legislation

The day before the White House is expected to release its fiscal year 2017 budget proposal, a coalition of more than 100 groups, including U.S. PIRG, sent a letter calling on President Barack Obama and all 535 members of Congress to oppose any federal appropriations bill that contains ideological policy riders.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy, Financial Reform

Citi shareholders gathered in NY demand lobbying disclosure

 

NEW YORK, NY - Citigroup shareholders gathered today in New York City for their annual meeting and outrage over Citi’s role in the financial crisis was still palpable in the room.  A major topic of interest was a shareholder proposal that would require the company to disclose its lobbying expenditures to its investors, one of over 100 resolutions on political activity filed this season.

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Media Hit | Financial Reform

Credit Bureaus’ Deal to Improve Accuracy ‘Huge’ for Consumers

(Bloomberg) -- Buying homes, getting jobs and borrowing money will be easier after an agreement by the three biggest U.S. consumer credit reporting services with New York.[...] “It’s a sea change in the way the credit bureaus treat complaints,” said [U.S. PIRG's Ed] Mierzwinski. “The credit bureaus have been run by computers for years now. They’re going to have to hire more people and actually verify that what a creditor said is true.”

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

U.S. PIRG Condemns Backdoor, Backroom Appropriations Proposal To Gut Wall Street Reform

We join others, including Americans for Financial Reform and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in condemning this backdoor, backroom appropriations "rider" to weaken the Wall Street reform law's protections for taxpayers and Main Street from the risky derivatives swaps that led to the 2008 financial collapse and recession.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

Big Banks, Bigger Fees

Over the last six months, PIRG staff conducted inquiries at 392 bank branches in 21 states and reviewed bank fees online in 12 others.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

Bailout Report Card

U.S. PIRG released a report card on how the bailout had been handled by the administration in terms of transparency and accountability.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

Failing the Bailout

This report first establishes that what is known about how the TARP recipients’ behavior before, during and after the bailout paints a dire picture of how the TARP funds were spent. It then presents a clear opportunity for lawmakers to regain some of the withering faith of the American people through widely supported execution tactics and simple communication practices with respect to TARP.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

Halfway to the CFPB

The CFPB Implementation Team staff are making significant progress in their efforts to both build an effective agency and be ready to perform required functions by the transfer date (July 21, 2011).

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB Criticizes Banks Re Account Opening and Overdrafts, Offers Consumer Tips | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, the CFPB is holding a field hearing in Louisville on problems consumers face when opening bank accounts. It finds that big banks frequently offer consumers expensive accounts where they risk overdraft fees instead of affordable accounts. Further, the CFPB finds that the practices of specialty "bad check" credit bureaus make it harder to open accounts. The CFPB issued warnings to both the banks and credit bureaus while providing consumers with new tips and advice.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Debating trade and consumer protection in Brussels today | Ed Mierzwinski

I am in Brussels today debating consumer protection and the proposed US-European trade treaty known as the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP. Today's public event, and a second public meeting tomorrow (Wednesday with live webstream 9am-noon DC time) comparing the CFPB to its European counterparts, are sponsored by the PIRG-backed TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

House Committee Launches Trojan Horse Assault On State Privacy Laws | Ed Mierzwinski

This afternoon (Tuesday, 8 December), the U.S. House Financial Services Committee launches a massive attack on state privacy laws. Hidden inside a seemingly modest proposal to establish federal data breach notice requirements is a Trojan Horse provision designed to to take state consumer cops off the privacy beat, completely and forever. That's wrong, because the states have always been key first responders and leaders on privacy threats that Congress has ignored, from credit report accuracy and identity theft to data breaches and do-not-call lists.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Privacy, We've Got Tips and Ideas For You, Congress and Regulators, Too | Ed Mierzwinski

Problems with privacy and data security are all over the news these days. We've got you covered, from releasing a new report and consumer tips on the security freeze today to testifying to Congress (last week) on payment card security and speaking on a panel at the FTC tomorrow on Internet lead generation (what's that?). Oh, and we're waiting for answers to our questions to the CFPB about the credit bureau Experian joining the ranks of the breached. We've been busy as we explain in this "roundup" blog entry.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

The More I Hear About OPM Data Breach, The Less I Know, Except This: It's Bad | Ed Mierzwinski

Was it 4 million, 14 million or 18 million records breached (how many times) (likely) by Chinese hackers? Whose fault was it? The USOPM director says no one's. Really? Perhaps the worst data breach ever raises lots of questions, but I haven't heard any good answers. Federal employees, their families, their friends and their neighbors -- because all of them could be victims -- deserve better answers, just as they deserve better service than USOPM's credit monitoring provider is giving them.

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