Wells Fargo bank created over 3 million fake bank and credit card accounts, 190,000 of the bank accounts were slapped with unnecessary fees and over 500,000 customers were enrolled in online bill pay without their authorization. Wells Fargo also admitted to forcing up to 570,000 borrowers to pay for unneeded auto insurance. About 20,000 of those customers may have had their cars repossessed due to these unnecessary insurance costs. Equifax revealed that highly sensitive personal and financial information for around 143 million U.S. consumers was compromised in a cyber-security breach. On top of that, financial disclosures show that three top Equifax executives sold $1.8 million worth of company stock in the days after the breach was discovered, but before the breach was made public thereby preventing the executives from personally losing money. Republicans have now given these institutions a bailout from being held accountable for these gross abuses, in essence giving a green light to future abuses.
Tuesday the Republican-led Senate voted narrowly to repeal a banking rule that would have allowed consumers to join together to sue their bank or credit card company to resolve financial disputes. Vice President Mike Pence cast the final vote late Tuesday to break a 50-50 tie, the move follows a similar vote in July by Republicans in the House and continues their practice of committing murder.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule announced in July would limit companies’ ability to impose arbitration agreements on customers in financial contracts, making it easier for aggrieved parties to join together in class-action lawsuits. Democrats and other supporters of the rule argued that it would give consumers an important protection against mistreatment by banks. The CFPB rule targets clauses that are often buried in the fine print of contracts that consumers sign when they get credit cards or open checking accounts. The language bars customers from banding together to file class-action suits, instead requiring them to settle disputes through arbitration.
Democratic lawmakers said the rule was needed and would give consumers more leverage to stop companies from financial wrongdoing. Citing Wells Fargo and Equifax abuses they argue consumers generally don’t have the time and means to pursue claims in arbitration, and since most disputes revolve around small amounts, they typically just give up. They said banks and other financial firms know that in the end, they won’t have to pay a real price for taking advantage of a consumer. Class-actions would serve as a powerful tool for consumers and an incentive for banks to do the right thing.
According to USA Today the advocacy group Consumers Union and several veterans groups, including the American Legion, lobbied to keep the rule. They said consumers would still have the option to use arbitration to resolve a dispute if both parties want to go that route. “Giving the consumer a genuine choice also means the lender has the incentive to make sure the alternative is fair and workable, so that informed consumers will have a reason to choose it,” said George Glover, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union. “Without the CFPB rule, consumers can be forced into a rigged system where they have no recourse. It’s a disgrace,” said Linda Lipsen, CEO of the American Association for Justice, an advocacy group that works to improve the legal system.
Republican President Donald Trump applauded the outcome. “By repealing this rule, Congress is standing up for everyday consumers and community banks and credit unions, instead of the trial lawyers, who would have benefited the most from the CFPB’s uninformed and ineffective policy,” the White House said in a statement.
According to Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren “This bill is a giant wet kiss to Wall Street. Bank lobbyists are crawling all over this place, begging Congress to vote and make it easier for them to cheat consumers,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray called the Senate vote “a giant setback for every consumer in this country” and urged Trump to veto the repeal legislation. “It robs consumers of their most effective legal tool against corporate wrongdoing,” Cordray said. “As a result, companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax remain free to break the law without fear of legal blow back from their customers.”
The LA Times reports that for years, Wells Fargo used arbitration clauses to block lawsuits from customers who were raising red flags about those 3 million unauthorized accounts being opened in their names. The bank only agreed to settle some class-action suits after the CFPB, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office fined the bank over those practices last year. Even in cases that the bank settled, it had argued that the plaintiffs could not sue because of arbitration clauses.
Equifax in response to its own screw-up of releasing proprietary information of 143 million Americans, offered free credit monitoring and identity theft protection to those 143 million Americans only if they gave up their right to sue. It later backtracked on that requirement after a public uproar.
On this issue, Democrats are 100% correct and 100% united. No Democrat in the House or Senate voted to repeal the banking rule.
Republicans need to start voting like their job is to look out for the people they serve, not to look out for Wells Fargo, Equifax, Wall Street banks and corporations who scam consumers. Republicans need to start voting bailouts for Main Street.