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Blog Post | July 21, 2023

Happy Birthday to the CFPB!

BankingConsumer ProtectionFinancial RegulationSupreme Court
Happy Birthday to the CFPB!

They grow up so fast!

It was 12 years ago today – on July 21st, 2011 – that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was born. The child of the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act, the CFPB stepped in to fill what had been one of the largest voids during the 2008 Financial Crisis: a powerful “cop on the beat” to protect consumers from predatory financial institutions and firms. 

12 years later, it’s done an outstanding job upholding its Dodd-Frank mandate. Just take a look at the numbers: 

  • The CFPB has returned a whopping $17.5 billion to consumers’ pockets in the form of monetary compensation, principal reductions, canceled debts, and other relief.
    • Of that $17.5 billion, $175 million – stemming from 39 enforcement actions – has gone to help military servicemembers and veterans. 
  • The CFPB has imposed $4 billion in civil penalties against corporate criminals and scammers who have ripped off consumers and deposited that money into a victims relief fund.
  • Around 200 million consumer accounts are eligible to receive financial relief from the CFPB. 
  • 50.1 million users have accessed the Bureau’s “Ask CFPB” financial literacy database, while over 4 million consumer complaints have been submitted to the Bureau since its founding. 

Today, under the leadership of consumer protection champion Rohit Chopra, the CFPB has put some of the scummiest financial actors on notice, for everything from sloppy data-keeping to excessive reliance on junk fees. Chopra has also amassed a stellar enforcement record against some of America’s biggest financial predators – including career corporate criminals like TransUnion, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo. 

Here’s some highlights of his tenure:

  • Sued serial offender TransUnion and its longtime executive John Danaher for violating a 2017 law enforcement order issued to stop the company’s deceptive and predatory marketing practices.. 
  • Fined Bank of America over $100 million for illegally charging “double-dip” junk fees, withholding credit card rewards, and opening fake accounts. 
  • Fined Wells Fargo a massive $3.7 billion for misapplying loan payments, wrongfully foreclosing on homes, illegally repossessing vehicles, charging illegal fees, and various other crimes. 
  • Ordered Regions Bank to pay a $50 million fine and refund consumers $141 million for charging illegal surprise overdraft fees
  • Fined U.S. Bank $37.5 million for illegally exploiting customers’ personal data to open unauthorized accounts, credit cards, and lines of credit.
  • Fined Trident Mortgage over $22 million for illegal redlining in Philadelphia.
  • Sued payday lender ACE Cash Express for extracting over $240 million in re-borrowing fees from struggling borrowers who were eligible for free repayment plans.
  • Sued repeat offender MoneyGram, one of the largest remittance providers for immigrants and refugees in the U.S. and their families abroad, for holding up customers’ funds.
  • Sanctioned student-loan servicer Edfinancial Services for misleading student borrowers about their eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
  • Sued pawn lenders FirstCash Inc. and Cash America West for charging over 200 percent interest on loans issued to military families. 

Unfortunately, some party-poopers want to ensure the CFPB’s 12th birthday is also its last. This coming October, the Supreme Court is slated to hear a brazenly pro-corporate and sloppily-argued lawsuit filed by payday lenders alleging the CFPB’s entire funding structure is unconstitutional. Should these rip-off artists prevail, the Court could potentially invalidate ALL of the Bureau’s past work and leave its future funding at the mercy of industry-bankrolled shills in Congress. As The American Prospect’s David Dayen rightly put it, the case threatens the very “functioning of daily life.”

The payday lender plaintiffs have already assembled a rogues’ gallery of right-wing law firms, crooked Republicans, and banking lobbyists to back up their audacious legal assault on the CFPB. This “coalition of the shilling” even includes disgraced Trump alums like Mick Mulvaney, Tom Price, and January 6th mastermind John Eastman

But the Bureau is not alone in this fight. Hundreds of public interest groups, current and former lawmakers, and constitutional law scholars have filed their own amicus briefs in the case defending the CFPB from this unprecedented attack. It’s a remarkable testament to the millions of lives the Bureau has touched in just 12 years of existence – from veterans to family farmers to student debtors to working families. Indeed, polling conducted by Lake Research Partners and Chesapeake Beach Consulting has found that Americans from all walks of life are united by their love of the CFPB: 79% of Americans – including 86% of Democrats, 75% of Republicans, and 64% of independents – support the Bureau.  

Here’s wishing a happy birthday to the CFPB – and many more to come! 

Read more from Revolving Door Project’s recent CFPB Work:

BankingConsumer ProtectionFinancial RegulationSupreme Court

More articles by Vishal Shankar

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