Making Life Better for Dirty Bankers,  Shady Car Dealers and Abusive Debt Collectors
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Making Life Better for Dirty Bankers,  Shady Car Dealers and Abusive Debt Collectors

It’s a Horrible Life When Old Man Potter Has a Friend in Pence’s Office

Mark Calabria

Mark Calabria, Vice President Mike Pence’s top aide who helped torpedo Americans’ right to file class-action lawsuits against banks that fleece us, could be poised to try to roll back other protections for consumers.

Calabria, once the director of financial regulation studies at the right-wing, libertarian Cato Institute, met with the trade association for the U.S. consumer credit industry and later received a wish list of ways to make “life better for American businesses and consumers.”

The wish list, from the American Financial Services Association, included making it easier for car dealers to discriminate against minorities. The association also wants the bureau to stop examining companies suspected of predatory practices and to rescind a letter that discouraged collections agents from visiting debtors at home and work.

The meeting, in March, was part of an effort to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the independent regulatory agency founded under former President Barack Obama. Republicans loathe the agency which has forced predatory and abusive companies to return almost $12 billion to consumers they stiffed.

ACTION BOX/What You Can Do About It

Call the White House at 202-456-1111 to urge Trump to veto the measure that would keep consumers from filing class-action suits against banks and other financial institutions.

A list of the members of the House Financial Services Committee is here.  Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the chairman, can be reached at 202-225-7502 or you can write him at Financial Services Committee, 2129 Rayburn HOB, Washington, D.C. 20515.

Bill Himpler, the executive vice president of the association, wrote that a company’s compliance “is subject to being judged by the particular whim of the examiner” and that the bureau examinations need to be stopped “while the need for them is re-evaluated by Congress.”

Americans owe more than $1 trillion in car loans, the third largest category of household debt for American consumers, behind mortgages and student loans. African-American and Latino borrowers are more likely to be charged more than comparable white buyers to borrow through dealer financing.

Ally Bank (formerly GMAC), Honda Financial and Toyota Motor Credit paid $126 million to borrowers who had been discriminated against in agreements with the bureau and the Department of Justice.

The association is disputing how the bureau calculated minorities were discriminated against and says there should be some type of relief for companies operating under consent orders.

The association has spent $375,000 so far this year on lobbying and succeeded in getting Congress to override a rule that allows consumers to bring class-action lawsuits against financial firms, another of the items on the association’s wish list. Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.

Richard Cordray, the director of the bureau, is calling on Trump to veto the measure. He says consumers should be able to bring lawsuits just the way Trump did in business.

“It robs consumers of their most effective legal tool against corporate wrongdoing,” Cordray said.

Calabria wants the bureau’s funding to be dictated by Congress, not independently funded as it is now. He also questioned the bureau’s move to limit effective interest rates charged by payday lenders, rates that can top 100%.

If a borrower and a lender agree to terms, “who am I to second-guess that?” Calabria asked.

 

 

October 31, 2017