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

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 | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

National Payday Lending Rule Could Protect Wisconsinites from Predatory Loans

Today, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) unveiled a proposal for a new national rule on payday and car title lending that has the potential to protect Wisconsinites from predatory high-interest loans. At a press conference in Eau Claire, consumer advocates joined faith and community leaders to highlight the harms of payday lending in Wisconsin. WISPIRG, the interfaith organization JONAH, and Citizen Action also underlined the importance of a strong federal rule to rein in abusive lending practices, and urged the CFPB to prevent loopholes from weakening the rule.

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Payday Loan Expansion Stopped

In July 2015, after WISPIRG convened a coalition of 30 groups to call for action, Gov. Scott Walker vetoed budget provisions that would have dramatically expanded payday lenders’ authority to sell predatory financial products to Wisconsin consumers. Payday loans trap consumers in a spiral of growing debt with detrimental impacts, particularly for low-income borrowers.

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Payday Loan Expansion Stopped

In July 2015, after WISPIRG convened a coalition of 30 groups to call for action, Gov. Scott Walker vetoed budget provisions that would have dramatically expanded payday lenders’ authority to sell predatory financial products to Wisconsin consumers. Payday loans trap consumers in a spiral of growing debt with detrimental impacts, particularly for low-income borrowers.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Faith Leaders, Advocates Release New Fact Sheet Detailing the Impact of Payday Lending on Wisconsinites

Faith leaders and consumer and low-income advocates participated in a joint press conference call to detail the harms of payday and high-interest loans on individuals, families and communities across the state.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Financial Reform, Tax

Wisconsin Small Businesses Foot $3,595 Bill from Offshore Tax Dodging

As Tax Day approaches, it’s important to remember that small businesses end up picking up the tab for offshore tax loopholes used by many large multinational corporations. WISPIRG, the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, today released a new study revealing that the average Wisconsin small business owner would have to pay an extra $3,595 in taxes to make up for the money lost in 2014 due to offshore tax haven abuse by large multinational corporations.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Financial Reform

Report: Mistaken Identity Tops Debt Collection Complaints

Debt collectors trying to collect debt from the wrong person were the top source of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), according to a report released by the WISPIRG Foundation. The report also found that Wisconsin consumers are 40th most likely to file complaints to the CFPB about debt collection, and that debt collection is a top source of complaints.  The report is the final in a series of reports by the WISPIRG Foundation that analyze the complaints in the CFPB’s public Consumer Complaints Database. The CFPB began accepting complaints in July 2011 and now accepts complaints about most financial products and services. Although the CFPB only opened its doors to complaints about debt collection last July, complaints about debt collection have already outpaced those for common products such as credit cards and bank accounts, accounting for the second largest portion of complaints after mortgages between July and January.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Financial Reform

Report: Capital One Most-Complained-About Credit Card Company in Wisconsin

Wisconsin consumers file more complaints about Capital One than any other credit card company, according to a report released by the WISPIRG Foundation. The report, which looked at data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) public Consumer Complaints Database, also found that Wisconsin consumers are 26th most likely to file credit card complaints.  "Credit Cards, Consumer Complaints: The CFPB's Consumer Complaint Database Gets Real Results for Credit Card Holders,” is the fourth in a series of reports by the WISPIRG Foundation that analyze the complaints in the CFPB’s consumer complaints database. Previous reports in the series have analyzed complaints about bank accounts, private student loans, and credit reporting.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Financial Reform

New CFPB Rules Will Protect Homebuyers and Homeowners

On Friday, January 10, new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rules go into effect that will help protect homeowners and homebuyers from the mortgage abuses that led to the housing crisis. In particular, consumers will get protections from lenders that make risky loans without checking a borrower’s income, assets, or ability to repay a loan. 

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Financial Reform

New Report Identifies Most Troublesome Private Lenders to Students

Thousands of American students are using the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) public Consumer Complaints Database to settle disputes about private student loans, according to a new report from the WISPIRG Foundation. Sallie Mae, the student lending giant, generated the most private student loan complaints in Wisconsin, and ranked first in every other state. Student loan borrowers in Wisconsin carry $22,400 on average in total student loan debt.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Financial Reform

10 Reasons We Need the CFPB Now

The report documents that while the failure of federal regulators to prevent predatory mortgage lending is well known, it is less well-known that federal regulators also failed to stop unfair credit card tricks, overdraft fee schemes and the growth of triple-digit APR and payday loans, which are now imposing a crushing financial burden on many families.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Financial Reform

Big Banks Bigger Fees

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

House Floor Vote on Budget Delayed over Special Interest "Riders" From Wall Street, Other Powerful Interests | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED: Opposition to a controversial provision authored by Citibank forced House leaders to delay consideration of the "CRomnibus" appropriations package just hours before funding for the federal government expired at midnight Thursday. Eventually the bill passed narrowly with the Wall Street provision intact. Action now shifts to the Senate, which has a 48-hour window to pass the bill, but any one Senator can block it under Senate rules. The provision would again allow Wall Street banks to place risky bets with taxpayer-backed funds, and require taxpayers to bail them out if the bets fail, repealing a key protection added in the 2010 Wall Street reform law. 

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB Gets Results for Consumers, Slams Chase for Deceptive Card Add-ons | Ed Mierzwinski

 On September 19, 2013, the CFPB announced it had imposed a $20 million civil penalty on JP Morgan Chase and ordered it to refund $309 million to over 2 million consumers for deceptively marketing junky credit card add-on products, some of which consumers didn't even receive. (The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Chase's previous consumer regulator, also added a $60 million penalty.)

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

It happened 4 years ago this weekend, and Congress has already forgotten | Ed Mierzwinski

Four years ago, on September 14-15, 2008, the Lehman Brothers investment bank declared bankruptcy while Bank of America acquired another foundering investment bank, Merrill Lynch -- major events that froze the financial markets and led in a few days to a $700 billion bailout of the financial system. Just four years later, some in the Congress have forgotten that real people and the economy are still suffering from the financial collapse, as it steps up Wall Street-backed efforts to prevent regulators from protecting the public.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

President’s Recess Appointment Gives Watchdog Teeth It Needs To Protect Consumers From Wall Street or Payday Lender Financial ShenanigansBruce SpeightEd Mierzwinski

Kudos to President Obama for standing up for consumers this week by making a recess appointment of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The President’s action means that the CFPB now has all its powers to protect the public from unfair financial practices, whether by banks or other financial firms, such as payday lenders and credit bureaus.

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The CFPB is under attack, and we need to tell our Senators to stand up and protect our consumer cop.

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