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In the financial services legislation being considered by Congress, of greatest interest to consumers is the creation of a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This new bureau would provide transparency and fairness for consumers when they take out a loan, use a credit card, or get a mortgage. The CFPB would oversee financial products and services like the Food and Drug Administration oversees the safety of our food and drugs. It would ensure that products are fair, sustainable, and suitable to borrowers. The bureau would focus on protecting consumers by ridding the market of the tricks and traps that have ensnared so many customers of banks and other for-profits.

The financial crisis demonstrated the great need for a watchdog with a sole mission to protect consumers in their dealings with for-profit financial institutions. Helping to precipitate this financial crisis was the many Americans who were duped into mortgages that they didn’t understand and couldn’t afford. Some states tried to rein in these abuses perpetrated by both banks and non-banks but were blocked when federal regulators preempted much of their authority. In fact, if efforts in those states to stop predatory mortgage lending had been successful, there is a good chance that the housing and economic crisis we are in would not have been so damaging.

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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