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Despite Stellar Record, CFPB Remains Under Attack



Charlene Crowell

By Charlene Crowell
NNPA Columnist


In everyday life, birthdays and anniversaries of many sorts are observed and celebrated. When it comes to consumer finance, there are two more anniversaries worth celebrating.

Congress enacted the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act on July 21, 2010 in response to the largest national economic challenge since the Great Depression. A key goal was and remains to protect the nation and its taxpayers from ever again bearing the financial burdens of risky deals by Wall Street and other private financial players. The following year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) opened its doors to serve the needs of America’s consumers.

Before the CFPB, no single federal agency had consumers as its sole priority and focus. To date, the Bureau has benefited 17 million consumers through a total of $10.1 billion in financial relief. More than 650,000 consumers have chosen to use its flexible complaint system that includes the options of online, written and telephone complaints in multiple languages.

On the enforcement side, CFPB’s actions have addressed multiple violations in different lending areas:

• In 2013 Chase Bank USA, N.A. and JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. was ordered to refund an estimated $309 million to more than 2.1 million customers for illegal credit card practices.

• The following year, Flagstar Bank was fined $37.5 million for violating the CFPB’s mortgage servicing rules by illegally blocking 6,500 borrowers’ attempts to save their homes.

• That same year, Colfax Capital Corporation and Culver Capital, LLC, also collectively known as “Rome Finance,” was ordered to pay $92 million in debt relief to 17,000 service members and other consumers for masking high-cost financing charges on artificially-inflated costs for goods and services.

• ACE Cash Express, operating over 1,500 storefront payday locations in 36 states, was ordered in 2014 to pay $10 million in restitution and penalties for its threats of criminal prosecution and intimidating phone calls that “create a sense of urgency” when contacting delinquent borrowers.

• Earlier this year, $480 million in debt relief to student loan borrowers who were wronged by the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges.

In recent days, the CFPB announced two additional enforcement actions involving illegal and deceptive credit card violations, and another for illegal private student loan servicing practices. As a result, Citigroup was ordered to refund $700 million to 8.8 million consumers and pay separate fines totaling $35 million. Discover Bank and its affiliates will refund $16 million to consumers, pay a $2.5 million penalty and improve its billing, student loan interest reporting and collection practices.

Additionally, 30 million consumers plagued by debt collectors now have the chance to be treated fairly because of CFPB’s first-time ever supervision of debt collection companies. The 12 million consumers who borrow payday loans will soon have more protection by a CFPB rule that addresses the myriad abuses wrought by triple-digit interest rates.

This and other abundant data suggest that America’s consumers are well-served by its four-year old consumer cop-on-the-beat.

Despite CFPB’s productivity, its critics have remained steadfastly opposed. Dozens of bills have been introduced to undermine its independence, its rules to protect against unfair deceptive and discriminatory practices, and its authority to oversee financial services such as payday lenders and auto finance companies.

When the Bureau took action against auto lenders who participated in pricing schemes that charged Black and Latino borrowers more for their loans, congressional critics organized threatening letters questioning their rationale and motives. And when the Bureau adopted new rules to rein in abuses in mortgage lending, those same critics rushed to file bills to weaken the rules and return to the very practices that lead up to the foreclosure crisis.

Fortunately, none of the attacks have made it into law.

At a July 8 Brookings forum that focused on the Wall Street reform law, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was asked by a reporter about the effort to abolish CFPB.

“I will say, for all of the concerns that a lot of people had early in its history, as they’ve taken action there’s been broad, overwhelming support for the fact that they’ve done things in a careful and sensible way, listening to all sides,” said Secretary Lew. “So I think if you kind of step away from the debate that took place before the CFPB was created and look at the track record, it should put to rest a lot of that controversy.”

Others who agree with Treasury Secretary have also spoken up in its defense.

“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has built an unprecedented record of success protecting our nation’s consumers and service members who have been victimized by unscrupulous corporations and financial institutions, noted Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the Ranking Member on the House Financial Services Committee and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“The CFPB has been, and continues to be, party to a wide array of enforcement actions related to practices that disproportionately affect communities of color, including deceptive marketing, unlawful debt collection, discrimination, unlawful fees and fraudulent mortgage relief schemes,” continued Waters.

A recent consumer survey by the Center for Responsible Lending and Americans for Financial Reform found that although anger at banks and other financial services companies has moderated over their role in the housing crisis, broad and bipartisan support for CFPB remains. When consumers self-identified as likely 2016 voters were asked to choose between more and less regulation of financial companies 71 percent side with more, and 20 percent with less. Additionally, 64 percent of these voters saw a need for an agency charged with protecting consumers against dangerous financial products.

So it seems that public sentiment sides with CFPB continuing its important work to protect consumer credit and finances.

“I’m truly proud of the CFPB’s outstanding success on behalf of our nation’s active-duty military, restoring tens of millions to service members.  And I applaud the Bureau for the work it’s doing to rein in payday lenders that have turned a business intended to help hard working consumers stay out of financial trouble into one that often creates trouble instead,” added Congresswoman Waters.

“I am hopeful that soon, the CFPB will eventually yield a strong and simple rule that protects our low-income and minority communities from unaffordable rates and unfair terms,” she concluded.


Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at 919-313-8523.



First in a Series on Jobs in Oakland. City Government; Please Do No (More) Harm

Oakland city government declares war on the unemployed. An overstatement? Not really.



High Quality stock aerial photos of downtown Oakland with Lake Merritt in the foreground.

Oakland city government declares war on the unemployed. An overstatement? Not really.

City administration professes concern for its residents who need help with access to jobs and training, while at the same time failing to issue contracts to the community organizations that stand ready to provide needed services.

The city council approved these contracts in June. As of late September, they have not been issued by the city administration.

Q: What does this mean? A: Non-profit organizations, operating on shoestring budgets in the best of times, have been required to advance their own funds in July, August, and September to serve the unemployed, with no reimbursement by the city because as the administration says, “Your contract has not been signed yet.”

Another impact: the workers who provide front line job services may not receive their paychecks on time…. creating unnecessary instability in their own households.

And who is responsible for issuing these contracts? Yup…it’s the city…. painfully tone deaf to the needs of the community, particularly those on the economic margins. Most of those served with job help are Black and Latinx residents who consistently suffer double digit unemployment. Many are returning home after incarceration.

And for this level of harmful disregard, the city receives  28 percent of scarce job training funds. Astonishing, since the city provides no direct services to job seekers.

As Oakland struggles with its horrific crime wave, it seems that attention would be paid to root causes, joblessness being paramount among them. Instead, the city administration seems intent on hobbling the very groups who stand ready to help. This happens year after year…. with no apparent consequences to an impenetrable bureaucracy.

Oakland, we can do  better than this.

We must.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.


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Pass the Freedom to Vote Act: Time Running Out to Protect Right to Vote in 2022 and Beyond

Ideally, voting rights should be a nonpartisan issue. Congress repeatedly passed extensions of the Voting Rights Act that were signed by Republican presidents. But right-wing politicians and judges have spent years trying to undermine the Voting Rights Act in the name of “states’ rights” or “state sovereignty.”



US Bill of Rights and Flag with spot lighting

Republican-controlled state legislatures have imposed new voting restrictions. They are getting ready to create more safe congressional seats for Republicans through abusive partisan redistricting. They are undermining faith in elections with false claims about election fraud and demands for fake “audits.”

The good news is that there is new momentum in Congress and a new bill to protect our democracy. We need to get it passed.

The new Freedom to Vote Act would protect the right to vote, end unfair partisan gerrymandering, and shine a light on the flood of dark money that allows billionaires to buy our elections in secret. It includes key sections of the earlier For the People Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives but was blocked in the Senate by Republican filibusters.

The Freedom to Vote act also addresses one of the worst things about some of the new voter suppression laws: provisions that give state officials the power to override voters and overturn election results.

There are other good things in the bill. It would make Election Day a federal holiday. Every state would have automatic voter registration, early voting and drop box accessibility. These would be major advances in making voting more accessible to everyone.

Voting rights advocates are rallying support for the Freedom to Vote Act. One of the sponsors, Democratic Sen. Joe Machin of West Virginia, worked hard to come up with a bill that he could support. He still hopes to get some Republican senators to join him.

That is an uphill battle. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled that no Republican senators will support this compromise. And he will use the Senate’s filibuster rules to prevent the Senate from passing election protections that are supported by huge majorities of the American people—something he has already done with the For the People Act.

Ideally, voting rights should be a nonpartisan issue. Congress repeatedly passed extensions of the Voting Rights Act that were signed by Republican presidents. But right-wing politicians and judges have spent years trying to undermine the Voting Rights Act in the name of “states’ rights” or “state sovereignty.”

With help from right-wing justices on the Supreme Court, states have imposed all kinds of new voting restrictions in recent years.

The number of new restrictive voting laws jumped massively after former President Donald Trump was defeated in last year’s presidential election. Grassroots organizing helped drive strong turnout among Black voters in key states, and Republicans have decided to respond by making it harder for people to register and vote.

That makes it clear that the new voter suppression rules have nothing to do with “election integrity” and everything to do with maintaining power at all costs.

The Constitution very clearly gives the federal government the right to step in when states undermine democracy with restrictive and discriminatory voting rules. That’s what Congress did more than 50 years ago when it passed the Voting Rights Act.

President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate must do whatever it takes to pass the Freedom to Vote Act. With democracy and voting rights at stake, we cannot let Jim Crow-era filibuster rules in the U.S. Senate have the final word.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way.

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Opinion; How You Can Help Your Kid Readjust to In-Person Schooling

Over time, if our kids are not able to relax and de-stress, their bodies may also react with headaches, stomach aches, rapid heart rates, and an overall feeling of unwellness.   



African American teacher assisting her students during class at elementary school and wearing face mask due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Our children are our most precious resource.  They hold in their hands the future of our community, our state, and our nation.  Likewise, we must hold them, too, under our protective guidance as we shape them into responsible and caring adults.

Now that most of our students have returned to school after an unusual, unpredictable and challenging 18 months due to COVID-19, many of our children are experiencing emotional upheavals due to – or exacerbated by — the pandemic. It is going to take some work to get children used to the stability, structure and predictability after more than a year of remote learning, disrupted schedules, isolation, little-to-no contact with peers and missed milestones.

Some of our children and their families have experienced food insecurity, income losses, illness and death due to COVID or related traumas.  These factors and many more have contributed to rising rates of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, decreased motivation, irritability, and an overall loss of learning.

As the school year begins, it is important to remember that each child is unique, and each one will experience their transition back to school differently.  According to the American Psychological Association (2021), 81 % of Gen Z teens (those between the ages of 13-17) have experienced intense stress associated with academic learning due to the COVID-19 crisis.  Rates of depression and anxiety in African American youth have increased also. Rates of suicidal ideation are climbing among Black youth as well but remains highest among LGBTQ+ youth across racial categories.  Moreover, in September 2020, over half of 11-17-year-olds reported having thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

Children experience stress differently than adults.  Usually, stress resolves itself within weeks for most youth. For others, though, the stress may turn into anxiety and influence the child’s thoughts and behavior.

Here are some things to look for:  changes in mood (irritability, hopelessness, frequent conflicts), changes in behavior (little time with friends, increase in video chatting or texting), loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, difficulty falling or staying asleep, and/or a change in appearance (personal hygiene).

Over time, if our kids are not able to relax and de-stress, their bodies may also react with headaches, stomach aches, rapid heart rates, and an overall feeling of unwellness.

So, what can you as a parent do to help your child?  Here are some recommendations.

  1. Get organized and plan for the school day.
  2. Talk with your student about any concerns that they may have returning to school. Even if school has started, ask and listen to how the school days have progressed.
  3. Try reaching out to another parent if your child is having difficulty making new friends. Plan a playdate or hangout time.
  4. Have a consistent and reliable schedule for waking up, going to bed, and for meals.
  5. Talk to your child about what they have to look forward to whether it’s the next school day or the end of the week.
  6. Listen to your students concerns and do not dismiss what you hear. Try to validate their experiences whether you can relate to them or not.
  7. Please follow CDC guidelines as well as your school district’s policies for staying safe in order to decrease the spread of COVID and its variants.
  8. Practice meditation. Just being still and quiet for three minutes will help to protect ourselves from stress, anxiety and depression upon waking up, at dinner or before bed.

Finally, we all must recognize the additional pressure placed on many of our students during the Black Lives Matter movement.  We must continue to actively advocate, support, empathize and listen to our children as they develop tools needed to face the challenges of life today.

Remember to keep the lines of communication open and reach out to a trusted expert such as your pediatrician or family care doctor.

Some licensed psychologists, including myself, offer screenings for depression, anxiety, hopelessness, stress, etc. as well as treatment with effective tools and strategies for success are available.

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