NCRC statement on Supreme Court Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ruling

Today, the Supreme Court ruled that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) structure is unconstitutional. The ruling ended what was supposed to be the director’s total independence from the president, by giving the president the authority to fire the director at will.

Jesse Van Tol, CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, made the following statement:

“The CFPB was established to protect consumers from high fees, discrimination, unscrupulous practices and abuses at the hands of banks and other financial services businesses. Now more than ever, in the middle of an unprecedented financial crisis caused by a global pandemic, consumers need the CFPB to look out for consumer interests. Individuals, families and businesses are under enormous financial pressure in an uncertain economy. 

“Congress intentionally sought to insulate the position of the director of the CFPB from politics to make sure that the interests of consumers would not be compromised by corporate lobbying. Today’s ruling undermines that core principle. 

“A strong CFPB makes a meaningful difference to the financial health of consumers. From 2011 to 2017, before the Trump Administration took over, the agency returned $12 billion to over 31 million American households. Put simply, the CFPB has been accountable, but first and foremost to consumers, not to political or corporate interests.

“It is sad to say, but unscrupulous companies will always seek to take advantage of others. We should never let down our guard – and at a time when the number of complaints filed by consumers has hit a monthly record for three consecutive months.

“The CFPB is the single entity in Washington that exists solely to defend the financial interests of regular people. It has taken on payday lenders, debt collection agencies, credit bureaus, private for-profit student loan companies and the big banks. Given the freedom to do its job without political interference, the CFPB has lived up to its mission. We are concerned that introducing political pressure will undermine it.

“The court ruled that the director is a political appointee, just like the heads of other agencies. The court did not touch, dismantle or rule against the purpose of the agency itself. So whoever is president gets to name the director. Under President Trump that’s meant a much less aggressive approach to protecting consumers. For instance, the CFPB just proposed relaxing restrictions on high-interest payday loans. But the court didn’t undermine or rule against the purpose of the agency itself, and that’s a victory for consumer advocates and for the American public. 

“Perhaps the next president can take that mission much more seriously, but we have to wonder why this one would not as well.

“Maybe the next Congress will add an independent board or take some other approach to reassert the CFPB’s independence. Whether it does or not, the next president can appoint a director who is more aggressive about protecting consumers.”

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