Reining In Wall Street

STANDING UP AGAINST THE BIG BANKS AND WALL STREET—For more than 20 years, Consumer Program Director Ed Mierzwinski has helped us stand up against big banks and credit card companies.

OUR FISCAL FUTURE

For years, federal bank regulators ignored numerous warnings of increasingly predatory mortgage practices, credit card tricks and unfair overdraft policies used by the big Wall Street banks. They also ignored warnings of risky securities being packaged and sold to investors. In the wake of the resulting financial crisis, CALPIRG fought to pass the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Since winning federal Wall Street reform, we’ve been working to defend those reforms from the industry’s attempts to defang, defund or delay them — in particular the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is the centerpiece of the law.

We’re working to:

  • Put consumers and taxpayers before big banks: Check irresponsible financial practices with new rules and stronger, independent enforcement by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
     
  • Cover all players and transactions: Rein in hedge funds and reckless investments that escaped regulations and traded without oversight on “shadow markets.” 
     
  • Control institutions that are “too big to fail”: Banks shouldn’t be able to freely gamble with taxpayer money covering their bets. We must rein in institutions whose risky investments threaten the larger economy.

In short, we’re fighting for a financial regulatory system that guarantees consumers and taxpayers are protected from the predatory practices at the heart of this problem. And we need to provide consumers a seat at the table when it comes to oversight of the nation’s financial system.

Issue updates

Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

Big Banks, Big Overdraft Fees

Overdraft fees are a major source of consumer pain, since they are borne disproportionately by Americans with few financial resources. Through the first three quarters of 2016, 626 large banks reported collecting $8.4 billion in revenue from overdraft and NSF fees, an increase of 3.6 percent over the same period in 2015. American consumers should look to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which has already enforced overdraft regulations and returned millions of dollars to consumers, to take new action to prevent unfair overdraft fees.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Overdrafts continue to hit students hard on campus

Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a report shining a spotlight on contracts between banks and colleges to promote debit cards on campus.  Students continue to get hit hard with overdraft fees attached to their campus bank accounts. According to the report, nearly one in ten consumers in the population with student accounts incurred 10 or more  overdrafts per year, paying, on average, $196 in overdraft fees alone. Below is a detailed analysis by US. PIRG's Chris Lindstrom, who championed the protections that the CFPB is reporting on. This report is one more example of why we need a strong CFPB. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Privacy, Consumer Groups Critical of Facial Recognition Report

We've joined leading privacy and consumer advocates in a news release sharply critical of a supposed "best-practices" report released today by the Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) concerning privacy and facial recognition technology. While the report purports to be the product of a "multi-stakeholder" process, all the leading privacy and consumer stakeholders dropped out of the skewed proceedings many months ago, as the release explains. It concludes: "There is much more lacking in these “best practices,” but there is one good thing: this document helps to make the case for why we need to enact laws and regulations to protect our privacy."

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

We oppose latest effort to weaken CFPB, other bank regulators | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, the House Financial Services Committee holds its latest cattle-call markup of a package of industry-backed bills designed to weaken consumer, taxpayer, depositor and investor protections. We've signed a letter opposing the so-called TAILOR (Taking Account of Institutions with Low Operation Risk) Act, which piles redundant requirements onto the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other regulators to do what they already do by existing law--treat small banks and credit unions differently than mega-banks. Also, the PIRG-backed Americans for Financial Reform sent up a letter opposing the TAILOR Act and 6 more of the 10 bills on the agenda because they are designed to weaken consumer, taxpayer, depositor and investor protections.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

More Than 100 Groups Insist on No Riders in Spending Legislation

The day before the White House is expected to release its fiscal year 2017 budget proposal, a coalition of more than 100 groups, including U.S. PIRG, sent a letter calling on President Barack Obama and all 535 members of Congress to oppose any federal appropriations bill that contains ideological policy riders.

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28,000 CALIFORNIANS TELL SENATORS TO STOP CODDLING WALL STREET AND CONFIRM CFPB DIRECTOR

CALPIRG leads a delegation of Bay Area community leaders calling on the Senate to confirm Richard Cordray to a full term as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, present the signatures of more
than 160,000 people, including over 28,000 Californians. 

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News Release | CALPIRG | Financial Reform

New Survey Shows Free Checking Widely Available At Small Banks But Banks Still Hiding Fees from Consumers

San Francisco November 15– A survey of hundreds of banks and credit unions found that free checking remains available at more than 6 out of 10 small banks and credit unions but was only found at one-quarter of surveyed big banks (those with over $10 billion in deposits). The survey released today by the California Public Interest Research Group also revealed that fewer than half of branches surveyed obeyed their legal duty to fully disclose fees to prospective customers on the first request, while 12% provided no fee information at all. 

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News Release | CALPIRG | Financial Reform

Legislature Approves the Homeowners Bill of Rights

Sacramento, CA—Today legislation was approved by both the California State Senate and Assembly aimed at addressing problems contributing to the persistent foreclosure crisis in California. The legislation is modeled after the national mortgage settlement between five of the nation’s largest banks and forty nine state attorneys general.

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News Release | US PIRG | Financial Reform

Responding to Students, Congress Extends Low College Loan Rate

 

Statement of Rich Williams, U.S. PIRG Higher Education Advocate, on the U.S. Congressional passage of bipartisan legislation to prevent subsidized Stafford student loan interest rates from doubling:

 

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News Release | CALPIRG | Financial Reform

Homeowners Bill Of Rights Approved By Conference Committee

This morning legislation was approved by a special foreclosure conference committee aimed at addressing problems contributing to the persistent foreclosure crisis in California. The legislation is modeled after the national mortgage settlement between five of the nation’s largest banks and forty nine state attorneys general.

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Report | CALPIRG | Budget, Financial Reform, Tax

Toward Common Ground

To break through the ideological divide that has dominated Washington this past year and offer a pathway to address the nation’s fiscal problems, the National Taxpayer Union and U.S. PIRG joined together to identify mutually acceptable deficit reduction of over $1 Trillion.

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10 Reasons We Need The CFPB Now

This report outlines predatory financial practices that hurt consumers and helped collapse the economy, costing us eight million jobs, millions of foreclosed homes and trillions of dollars in lost home and retirement values. It explains these and other emerging problems as “10 Reasons We Need The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Now.”

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Big Banks, Bigger Fees

Since Congress largely deregulated consumer deposit (checking and savings) accounts beginning in the early 1980s, the PIRGs have tracked bank deposit account fee changes and documented the banks’ long-term strategy to raise fees, invent new fees and make it harder to avoid fees. 

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Debating trade and consumer protection in Brussels today | Ed Mierzwinski

I am in Brussels today debating consumer protection and the proposed US-European trade treaty known as the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP. Today's public event, and a second public meeting tomorrow (Wednesday with live webstream 9am-noon DC time) comparing the CFPB to its European counterparts, are sponsored by the PIRG-backed TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

House Committee Launches Trojan Horse Assault On State Privacy Laws | Ed Mierzwinski

This afternoon (Tuesday, 8 December), the U.S. House Financial Services Committee launches a massive attack on state privacy laws. Hidden inside a seemingly modest proposal to establish federal data breach notice requirements is a Trojan Horse provision designed to to take state consumer cops off the privacy beat, completely and forever. That's wrong, because the states have always been key first responders and leaders on privacy threats that Congress has ignored, from credit report accuracy and identity theft to data breaches and do-not-call lists.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Privacy, We've Got Tips and Ideas For You, Congress and Regulators, Too | Ed Mierzwinski

Problems with privacy and data security are all over the news these days. We've got you covered, from releasing a new report and consumer tips on the security freeze today to testifying to Congress (last week) on payment card security and speaking on a panel at the FTC tomorrow on Internet lead generation (what's that?). Oh, and we're waiting for answers to our questions to the CFPB about the credit bureau Experian joining the ranks of the breached. We've been busy as we explain in this "roundup" blog entry.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

House Floor Vote on Budget Delayed over Special Interest "Riders" From Wall Street, Other Powerful Interests | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED: Opposition to a controversial provision authored by Citibank forced House leaders to delay consideration of the "CRomnibus" appropriations package just hours before funding for the federal government expired at midnight Thursday. Eventually the bill passed narrowly with the Wall Street provision intact. Action now shifts to the Senate, which has a 48-hour window to pass the bill, but any one Senator can block it under Senate rules. The provision would again allow Wall Street banks to place risky bets with taxpayer-backed funds, and require taxpayers to bail them out if the bets fail, repealing a key protection added in the 2010 Wall Street reform law. 

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

What meaningful California foreclosure reform should look like | Pedro Morillas

The foreclosure reform conference committee is expected to come out with their report next week, likely after the budget votes are wrapped up. Here is what CALPIRGis hoping ends up in the policy. If the legislation contains these elements it will help struggling borrowers stay in their homes and help California's economy right itself. 

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