From the New York Times by Tara Siegel Bernard:
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has already overcome considerable political resistance, has managed to pack some punches in the last few months on behalf of the purchasing public it represents.
In December, the agency ordered refunds by major companies for misleading business practices: American Express, more than $59 million; GE Capital Retail Bank, up to $34 million. A joint settlement with Ocwen Financial totaled about $2 billion. The list goes on.
And on Friday, new mortgage rules and consumer protections went into effect that were part of the financial overhaul bill that created the agency, which opened its doors just over two years ago.
Yes, there’s a new sheriff in town. But the true test of the consumer watchdog’s mettle will be in the year ahead, when the agency is set to take on several thorny issues that are likely to draw more resistance from the financial services lobby and give more impetus to Republican opponents in Congress who continue to try to reduce the bureau’s power. As recently as November, a House committee passed several bills to do just that.
(The agency’s new director, Richard Cordray, whose confirmation was being blocked by Republicans, was finally confirmed in July, two years after his appointment by President Obama.)
Consumer advocates say they will be watching several big issues closely, including something called forced arbitration, which amounts to waiving the right to sue in some kinds of cases, as well as debt collection and overdraft charges.
The consumer agency has already begun studying all of these areas, but how far it will go remains to be seen. Several consumer advocates, consumer law experts and others have weighed in on what they would like to see the agency accomplish in the year ahead on these issues and others: Arbitration, Overdraft Fees, Debt Collection, Student Loans, and Credit Report Disputes.