The famous lyrics from Hamilton: An American Musical, “the world turned upside down,” are an apt description of what is happening in the financial justice field these days.
Here’s what we’re concerned about at the federal level:
- The Department of Treasury issued a paper on reforming the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). While there are some positive things in the Treasury report, such as recognition of the positive aspects of Community Benefit Agreements with banks, if the banking regulators (the Federal Reserve Board, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and the FDIC) follow some of Treasury’s not-so-great recommendations, it could seriously weaken the CRA, which we use to hold banks accountable for lending, investing, and providing services to low- and moderate income people and communities.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Acting Director Mick Mulvaney, who is also head of the Office of Management and Budget and has accepted thousands of dollars of campaign donations from payday lenders, is decimating the CFPB. He stopped enforcement actions, dismissed pending cases against payday lenders, refused to take any of the money allocated for the agency to operate, removed supervision and enforcement powers from the Office of Fair Lending, froze hiring while brining on political appointees, changed the name, mission and logo, and issued a series of Requests for Information designed to gather ammunition to undo years of rulemaking and guidance designed to protect consumers. His “acting director” period is about to end and President Trump has not nominated a permanent director.
- Congress is using its powers under the Congressional Review Act again to roll back rules and guidance issued by the CFPB to protect consumers. Congress previously use that Act to reverse the CFPB rule prohibiting forced arbitration instead of giving harmed consumers their day in court. Now the Congressional Review Act may be used to roll back protections from discriminatory auto lending and abusive payday and auto title lending rules—a decision 36 Illinois groups warned against in March.
- Although the CFPB and the OCC levied a record $1 billion fine against Wells Fargo Bank for undisclosed charges on mortgage fees and car insurance schemes, not a single executive or supervisor lost his job or had a bonus or salary clawed back for allowing egregious actions to take place for multiple years! While both consumers and investors are caught in the crosshairs of Wells Fargo’s mistakes, the fine barely cuts into the bank’s recent $3+ billion tax break.
- The U.S. Senate passed a “hodge podge of giveaways to the industry” in the “Bank Lobbyist Act” (S. 2155). The act unravels economic safeguards designed to help prevent the kind of financial collapse that led to the Great Recession of 2008; it loosens bank supervision and reporting of data meant to deter racial discrimination in lending practices.
Those are just a few of the federal financial justice issues keeping us awake at night! What can you, as a concerned citizen, do? Please join Woodstock and our allies as we comment on proposed CRA rules, urge the appointment of a CFPB director who truly embraces the agency’s consumer protection mission, contact our Members of Congress to uphold the CFPB rules and oppose weakening of the agency, and call on the OCC and CFPB to take additional steps to hold Wells Fargo leadership responsible. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, email, or our website as we will keep you updated on these issues—including opportunities to sign-on to comment letters and to call your legislators. As the midterm elections approach, we want to remind you to press candidates for their views on these issues and vote for people who will protect Main Street, not Wall Street.
Woodstock is non-partisan, pro-consumer and small business – and we’re here to turn this world right side up!