In the fall of 2007, reckless lending and purposeful deceit by Wall Street plunged the U.S. economy into the worst recession since the Great Depression. As a lawyer representing and demanding restitution for clients that had gotten ripped off, I saw first hand the greed, recklessness, and destruction that these Wall Street firms had caused, and can never be allowed to cause again.
Ten years after the crash, millions of people are still struggling to recover; incomes in Pennsylvania are stagnant. Meanwhile, the concentrated financial industry continues to dominate our economy, claiming nearly 30 percent of all corporate profits, while employing less than five percent of the workforce. Wall Street, and the politicians that they bankroll, are hoping that you’ve somehow forgotten all about this and won’t mind if they roll back protections that are meant to prevent another crisis and limit their control over the economy.
A perfect example of this can be seen this week in events surrounding the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an agency created in the wake of the financial crisis as part of the Dodd-Frank Act. It has a simple, uncontroversial mission: to protect people like you and me from financial institutions that abuse or mislead us about our bank accounts, mortgages, credit cards, and student loans, and to punish those that do. This work is crucial to ensuring that companies who defraud consumers are caught and punished. It’s not surprising that 74% of all voters, including 66% of Republicans, approve of the CFPB’s work.
The CFPB has returned $12 billion to 29 million Americans that were misled or abused by their banks, and has imposed over $600 million in penalties to those abusers. It has handled more than 1.2 million consumer complaints and issued rules to make mortgages safer and simpler. In 2016, the CFPB exposed Wells Fargo for illegally opening accounts on behalf of customers, often forging their signatures in the process, and charging them hidden fees for those accounts. The CFPB fined Wells Fargo $185 million, and required the bank to pay back every penny that it stole from its customers. Were it not for the CFPB, practices like this would have never seen the light of day and would continue unabated.
After the abrupt resignation of the director of the CFPB this week, President Trump appointed Mick Mulvaney to serve as its acting director. Mulvaney, who received nearly $1 million from finance, insurance, and real estate industry PACs while in Congress, unsurprisingly views the CFPB’s work as “a sick, sad joke,” and actually once co-sponsored a bill to shut down the CFPB completely. On his first day as acting director, Mulvaney was quick to gut the agency, ordering a 30-day hiring freeze, and a freeze on new regulations and fines. On the campaign trail, Trump promised that he would drain the swamp and stand up to Wall Street, but now he is just again allowing them to run the show.
It is not only Trump that is doing Wall Street’s bidding—Glenn Thompson is as well. In July, Glenn voted for a bill, since signed into law by Trump, which overturns a CFPB rule allowing Americans to join together and file class-action lawsuits against banks like Wells Fargo that arbitrarily fine or mislead you. Now, thanks to Glenn, you have to enter into costly arbitration with the bank to settle any dispute, with that arbitrator often selected and paid by the very same bank that abused you. This bill is a disgrace to the American Dream: the only firms that are helped by this move are those that cheat, and the only people who are hurt are those who are cheated. Glenn Thompson is a crony capitalist. Period.
Enough is enough. It is time that the Fifth District had a representative who answers to the people and not to Wall Street. Not only does this cost you more money out of your pocket, but it also puts the national economy and your children’s future at risk. It is time we truly drain the swamp, starting with Glenn Thompson.