Reining in Wall Street

STANDING UP FOR CONSUMERS IN THE FINANCIAL MARKETPLACE—For more than 20 years, Consumer Program Director Ed Mierzwinski has helped us stand up against big banks and credit card companies.

A Consumer Cop On the Financial Beat

You work hard for your money. You should be able to save, invest and generally manage your money without fear of being trapped, tricked or ripped off by the institutions you are trusting with your financial future. And from the 2008 economic collapse, we know how big of an impact those institutions can have on our economy when they play fast and loose with our money. 

Since 2009, the solution has been clear. We need to have fair, clear, transparent and enforceable rules that protect consumers in the financial marketplace. Now, we know we can get there through the work of an agency that has those principles at the core of its mission — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.   

The CFPB Gets the Job Done

Despite the fact that the CFPB is not widely known, we’ve already seen their financial oversight return nearly $12 billion to consumers … in just five years. The CFPB holds big banks, debt collectors, and lenders accountable. Here are a few examples of some of the cases the CFPB has taken on:


When American Honda Finance used discriminatory pricing to rip off African-American, Hispanic, and Asia/ Pacific Island borrowers who paid too much for car loans, the CFPB returned $24 million to these consumers.


The Department of Justice and 47 states joined the CFPB in a $216 million action against JP Morgan Chase Bank for illegal debt collection practices affecting over half a million Americans.


When it was discovered that Wells Fargo employees were opening unauthorized debit and credit accounts using their customer's information, the CFPB fined Wells Fargo $100 million for fraud.


The CFPB fined Equifax andTransUnion — two of the three largest credit reporting agencies — $5 million for selling inflated credit scores to consumers that were different from ones actually used by lenders and returned $17 million to those harmed by the deception.

But the CFPB doesn't just help consumers get their money back, it levels the financial playing field. The CFPB has several specialized departments for veterans, senior citizens, new homeowners, college students, and low-income consumers that seek to educate the public on how to stay safe and provide them with the tools they need to keep their finances secure.

Tell Your Senators: Stand Up For Consumers

Almost every day we hear about some new way of tricking, trapping and ripping off consumers. And despite the fact that tricks like these led directly to the 2008 financial collapse, some Wall Street banks are spending upwards of a million dollars every day to roll back the rules and the CFPB — the very agency that was created to keep them in check. Now, many legislators in Washington want to defund or destroy the CFPB.

Effective consumer protections aren't some sort of luxury we can't afford — they're hallmarks of a great country. As founders and leaders of the movement to create and protect the CFPB, we're working to make sure that our success not only sticks, but that we can build upon it.

Issue updates

Blog Post | Financial Reform

As CFPB Reviews Overdraft Rules, UK Regulator Makes Pro-Consumer Changes | Ed Mierzwinski

As the CFPB conducts a ten-year regulatory review of the Overdraft Rule established by the pre-CFPB regulators in 2010, the UK's Financial Conduct Authority has announced sweeping changes to address what it calls a "dysfunctional" overdraft market. The US system prohibits overdraft fees on debit and ATM transactions unless you opt-in to fee-based "standard overdraft protection," but the fees average over $32 per overdraft and CFPB has accused some banks of deceptive marketing of the service. Meanwhile, the UK's FCA is banning fixed fee overdrafts and requiring UK banks to treat overdrafts as loans subject to reasonable interest rates. We've asked CFPB to ban overdrafts on debit and ATM transactions.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Consumer Privacy Fight In Congress Intensifies | Ed Mierzwinski

The media are reporting that efforts led by BigTech and BigPhone to push Congress to enact a self-serving umbrella privacy law on Capitol Hill are stalling. But that's only for now; they are still pushing hard. Pushback from legislators with stronger state laws is helping slow them down. So are the welcome efforts of civil rights colleagues to demand that digital and algorithmic decisions not discriminate. There's an important civil rights briefing later this afternoon on Capitol Hill. Learn more. 

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

State PIRGs Join National Consumer Lobby Day At Congress | Ed Mierzwinski

State PIRG staff from around the country joined over 120 consumer advocates at the third annual Consumer Lobby Day today. Meetings with members of Congress and their staffs focused on protecting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's structure and funding while also opposing its current leadership's attack on a payday lending regulation drafted by its past director and his team.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB's Kraninger Provides Opaque Statement To Committee; Questions and Second Panel Will Be Critical | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, new CFPB director Kathy Kraninger testifies to Congress for the first time. The House Financial Services Committee will need to drill down with tough questions. Why? Kraninger's written pre-filed statement reads like an answer to a warped question from old television's Sergeant Joe Friday: "Just the irrelevant, off-point facts, ma'am." The committee should also look to the cogent testimony of consumer, civil rights, military family and student advocates also appearing today.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

U.S. PIRG and Leading Groups Demand Real Privacy Protection and Digital Rights

Today, U.S. PIRG joined leading consumer, privacy and civil rights groups to issue a Privacy Protection and Digital Rights Framework that must form the basis of any new federal privacy law. The release comes as a phalanx of big tech firms and their allies is urging Congress to instead enact a new law that serves them, but preempts stronger state laws and allows all current intrusive industry data collection, sharing and surveillance practices to continue unfettered by any aspect of consumer control or rights.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Overdrafts continue to hit students hard on campus

Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a report shining a spotlight on contracts between banks and colleges to promote debit cards on campus.  Students continue to get hit hard with overdraft fees attached to their campus bank accounts. According to the report, nearly one in ten consumers in the population with student accounts incurred 10 or more  overdrafts per year, paying, on average, $196 in overdraft fees alone. Below is a detailed analysis by US. PIRG's Chris Lindstrom, who championed the protections that the CFPB is reporting on. This report is one more example of why we need a strong CFPB. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Privacy, Consumer Groups Critical of Facial Recognition Report

We've joined leading privacy and consumer advocates in a news release sharply critical of a supposed "best-practices" report released today by the Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) concerning privacy and facial recognition technology. While the report purports to be the product of a "multi-stakeholder" process, all the leading privacy and consumer stakeholders dropped out of the skewed proceedings many months ago, as the release explains. It concludes: "There is much more lacking in these “best practices,” but there is one good thing: this document helps to make the case for why we need to enact laws and regulations to protect our privacy."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

More Than 100 Groups Insist on No Riders in Spending Legislation

The day before the White House is expected to release its fiscal year 2017 budget proposal, a coalition of more than 100 groups, including U.S. PIRG, sent a letter calling on President Barack Obama and all 535 members of Congress to oppose any federal appropriations bill that contains ideological policy riders.

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Media Hit | Financial Reform

Credit Bureaus’ Deal to Improve Accuracy ‘Huge’ for Consumers

(Bloomberg) -- Buying homes, getting jobs and borrowing money will be easier after an agreement by the three biggest U.S. consumer credit reporting services with New York.[...] “It’s a sea change in the way the credit bureaus treat complaints,” said [U.S. PIRG's Ed] Mierzwinski. “The credit bureaus have been run by computers for years now. They’re going to have to hire more people and actually verify that what a creditor said is true.”

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Financial Reform

Illinois PIRG Supports Attorney General Madigan's New Data Security Bill

The number, scale and scope of data breaches over the past year is alarming. The protections in place for consumers are insufficient and the response from companies collecting and storing our personal information has been unacceptable. That is why we are endorsing this much needed legislation today. 

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Mulvaney Lobs One Last Softball To Industry Opponents of CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

As the year 2018 came to an end, U.S. PIRG, Americans for Financial Reform and AFR members filed the last in in a seemingly interminable series of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Requests for Information. Although there was no clear intent to this "Data Collection" RFI, we, and allied academic scholars who filed a separate comment, both inferred it as another opportunity for industry opponents of the CFPB to attack the Bureau's consumer protection mission -- this time by challenging its collection and use of data to evaluate and respond to financial marketplace problems that harm consumers. 

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

EU NGOs Blast Google Locational Data Collection as US Groups Blast FTC on Privacy | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, 7 member groups of the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) asked each of their national Data Protection Authorities to investigate Google Android's smartphone locational data collection practices following an investigative report by the Norwegian Consumer Council (Forbrukerrådet) finding that Google may be in violation of the new European GDPR privacy law. All the groups are members of the U.S. PIRG-backed TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue, which itself  followed up on the report and EU actions with a letter to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Meanwhile, as the Senate prepared for an afternoon FTC oversight hearing today where Facebook may be a focus, we joined leading groups in a separate letter to complain to the FTC about its biased staff report that adopts unsubstantiated industry claims in defense of an FTC call to the administration for weak baseline privacy choices. 

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

2019 Fight Over Data Privacy Rights Heating Up Already | Ed Mierzwinski

Next year, a highly-anticipated privacy and data rights battle will occur in Congress. Powerful special interests from Google to Facebook are responding to the new European General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) by seeking to quash any similar effort to protect U.S. consumers while simultaneously seeking to preempt a new California privacy law before it takes effect in 2020. Will we continue as data collector products, not their customers, or will we gain control over our own financial DNA? The state PIRGs are in this one; guess which side we're on. Today we joined 34 leading groups in issuing shared Privacy Principles.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

The Facebook Data Breach: What You Need to Know and What You Should Do | Ed Mierzwinski

This guest post from Nathan Acks of the State PIRG Internet Security team offers background on the latest Facebook breach and what you can do.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Ten Years After Lehman, Lessons of Financial Collapse Ignored, Not Forgotten | Ed Mierzwinski

Ten years ago this weekend the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers marked the massive financial collapse of 2008. Millions of Americans lost homes, jobs and trillions of dollars in retirement savings. Today, the financial collapse hasn't been forgotten, it's being ignored by Congress and Wall Street.

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Blog Post

On Monday, the U.S. House approved H.R. 5332, the Protecting Your Credit Score Act of 2020 (Gottheimer-NJ). U.S. PIRG joined other leading advocates of credit reporting reform in a support letter to the House last week. The bill takes a number of steps to make it easier to fix credit reporting errors.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

U.S. PIRG Education Fund, the Student Borrower Protection Center and Consumer Action have released a report recommending that  CFPB should use the full extent of its authority to take immediate action to strengthen its consumer complaint tool, hold companies accountable for providing complete and timely responses to consumers, and leverage consumer complaints related to the pandemic to support oversight and regulatory action to protect consumers.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

U.S. PIRG Education Fund has released a report with the Student Borrower Protection Center and Consumer Action. The report makes recommendations to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to upgrade its consumer complaint tool, including the public consumer complaint database, so COVID19-related complaints can be handled more quickly and tracked better.

Blog Post

Yesterday, U.S. PIRG joined leading consumer groups and bank trade associations in a joint letter urging Congress at the soonest possible opportunity to clarify that economic impact payments responding to this public health emergency are exempt from otherwise legally binding garnishment orders.

Blog Post

Rich Cordray, the first director of the CFPB and author of a new book on his six years at its helm, has issued a powerful memo to its current director, Kathy Kraninger, urging her to stop "relaxing" duties on financial firms and to "lose no further time" in "shield[ing] households and families" from the "economic harms" they face as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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