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WASHINGTON, D.C. Oct. 16, 2019 – Today, at a hearing entitled “Who Is Standing Up for Consumers? A Semi-Annual Review of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Committee on Financial Services, gave the following opening statement:
Good morning. Today, we are here to receive the semi-annual report of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and hear testimony from its Director, Kathy Kraninger.
Director Kraninger, the record shows you are undermining protections for consumers and letting bad actors off the hook. I am deeply concerned by your anti-consumer actions.
You have helped payday lenders by moving to delay and weaken the Consumer Bureau’s payday, small-dollar and car title rule, which would have put a stop to abusive payday loans.
You have helped predatory debt collectors by issuing a weak debt collection rule, giving a green light for debt collectors to intimidate consumers by sending unlimited emails and text messages and calling them seven times a week, per debt, to collect debts.
You have issued a proposal and final rule to weaken reporting requirements under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, making it more difficult for communities across the country to detect predatory and discriminatory lending.
You have forced the Consumer Bureau to abandon its longstanding defense of the constitutionality of the agency’s structure. As the agency’s lawyers conceded in a court filing, this change gives ammunition to bad actors that want to resist the agency’s regulation and enforcement of consumer financial protection laws. Congress specifically designed the Consumer Bureau to be an independent agency, like other federal financial regulators, and it is clear that you are working to undermine the agency’s ability to serve as an independent watchdog for consumers.
You have also failed to ensure that financial institutions that are caught red-handed committing illegal acts are required to return funds to consumers who have been harmed by those acts. After three of the first five settlement agreements that you authorized as Director of the Consumer Bureau failed to provide any consumer restitution, I initiated a Committee investigation to scrutinize your actions.
One of the settlements that the Committee examined was with a payday lender called Enova, which illegally took $2.6 million from consumers’ bank accounts without their permission or knowledge. You authorized the Consumer Bureau to enter a settlement agreement that did not require Enova to return any of the money it took from its customers.
The Committee’s investigation has revealed that Eric Blankenstein, a Trump-administration political appointee most well-known for his history of writing racist blog posts, rejected the judgment of career enforcement attorneys and non-partisan senior management officials, who recommended requiring Enova to refund consumers as part of the settlement. Instead, Blankenstein overruled those recommendations, and as a result of his actions and your subsequent decision to authorize a settlement without redress, consumers who were cheated were left with nothing.
It is unacceptable that Trump Administration political appointees are intervening to let predatory financial institutions off the hook and preventing consumers from getting their money back when it is wrongfully taken from them.
Today, this Committee continues its oversight of the Trump Administration’s actions at the Consumer Bureau, and we will continue to stand up for consumers, who deserve better from the agency.
Today, Chairwoman Waters released a Majority staff report entitled, “Settling for Nothing: How Kraninger’s CFPB Leaves Consumers High and Dry.” The report presents evidence that the Trump Administration’s politicization of the Consumer Bureau has led to a decline in the Consumer Bureau’s redress for harmed consumers.