Kane in Your Corner: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Posted: Updated:

The House of Representatives is expected to vote Thursday on a Republican proposal  that consumer advocates say would gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has returned $12 billion to consumers in its six years of operation. Conservative lawmakers portray the CFPB as an agency that is out of control and unaccountable.

The CFPB is best known as the agency that imposed $185 million in penalties against Wells Fargo for opening fraudulent accounts in customers' names. New Jersey consumer attorney Carl Mayer calls it "the best regulatory agency going."  

But Republican leaders say the agency has far too much power. A bill called the Financial CHOICE Act, scheduled for a House vote Thursday, would prevent the agency from issuing any new regulations, and would allow the president to fire the CFPB's director at will. Currently, once appointed, the director answers to no one.  A consortium of consumer groups says the measure would leave consumers at the mercy of predatory lenders and debt collectors.

Republican leaders and the Trump administration, however, contend the CFPB has actually hurt the economy, by making banks reluctant to lend. They also contend the CFPB director has too much power, since he cannot be fired by the president he ostensibly reports to. Last year, an appeals court agreed, ruling the agency violates the separation of powers spelled out in the Constitution. The CFPB has appealed.

If it passes the House, the Financial CHOICE Act is expected to have a harder time in the Senate. There, it would be vulnerable to a filibuster, so 60 votes would be needed to pass it.

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