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elizabeth warren

US Supreme Court bails out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but dire reform is needed

Today, the US Supreme Court delivered an opinion on the constitutionally of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau‘s funding.

This is important, as CFPB operates with a Federal Reserve slush fund, not constrained by Congress. Oversight is also limited. In a 7-2 opinion, SC sided with CFPB. But questions remain.

The CFPB was created to police “unfair, deceptive, or abusive” practices by firms offering consumer finance products (loans, credit, payday advances, etc.) Its goal is to protect consumers, but as mass debanking for nonprofits and individuals proves, this hasn’t happened.

And with yet more regulatory uncertainty on the horizon with regard to FinTech legislation and consumers’ access to innovation financial products, the CFPB must face dire reform.

Unlike other government agencies, there no requirements to follow a formal “rule process” allowing citizens to voice their concerns if they disagree with a proposal. We can dispute over authority for agency rules (#overturnChevron), but no mandate for comments is a glaring issue.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found a problem with CFPB’s structure and funding, and agreed with the complaints that charge that the agency circumnavigates congressional authority and oversight (which SC ruled on).

At the Consumer Choice Center, we absolutely agree that there’s a role for government institutions to protect consumers – especially in the market for financial products. But when rules are burdensome, reduce availability of credit, and make it more difficult for Americans to finance their lives and businesses, this is worth another look. And likely some Congressional action.

We must remember that CFPB was a brainchild of now Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of the most hostile politicians in DC on innovative financial products and technologies that actually help consumers.

At best, CFPB is an agency without watchers. At its worst, it’s an unaccountable bureaucracy that is halting innovation. Either way, there must be another way.

There are still many questions we’d like to ask, and perhaps some suggestions to reform CFPB in the next Congress. We look forward to more positive reform to better empower consumers and push forward on financial innovation.

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