The long-awaited Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is supposed to begin its work on July 21. But Congress is attempting to delay and weaken provisions of the Dodd-Frank law establishing the new office, moves that would impede the ability of small businesses in the Washington area and around the country to restore their customer base.
Wall Street excesses triggered the financial crisis that shattered consumer confidence and hurt small businesses. With more than 13.5 million Americans still out of work and small businesses still struggling to win their customers back, the high cost of failing to oversee the financial sector is devastatingly clear.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has become a flash point in an intense lobbying effort by the big banks and opponents of Wall Street reform to gut efforts to hold Wall Street accountable. The CFPB is the first and only agency committed to protecting the public from financial products laced with tricks and traps and dedicated to policing fair rules of the road for mortgages, credit cards, bank accounts, debt collection and student loans. The CFPB will consolidate the consumer protection responsibilities of as many as seven federal agencies under one roof.
Small businesses need to band together and oppose the slew of bills in the House of Representatives and the Senate that are aimed at weakening the consumer bureau.
In one of the most egregious efforts, 44 senators signed a letter to President Obama declaring that they will not support any nominee as director of the CFBP unless the agency is dramatically weakened. The move is based in part on the premise that the CFPB will hurt small businesses. Nothing could be further from the truth. Small businesses have been devastated by the economic consequences of Wall Street recklessness and abusive lending, with the recession leading to small-business bankruptcies nearly doubling between March 2008 and March 2009. And small businesses are especially hurt when dollars that our customers and prospective customers could be spending on the goods and services we offer are instead sucked away by bad mortgages, or deceptive credit cards or outrageous overdraft fees.
Last year, 67 percent of 1,200 small-business owners we surveyed across the nation said they supported the creation of the consumer bureau, while only 13 percent opposed it.
The law actually requires the CFPB to consult with small-business representatives about any rules that may impact us. We hope this requirement will be used to further good rulemaking, not get in its way.
Some in Congress also have been moving to scuttle the nomination of Elizabeth Warren to head the CFPB. Small-business owners need to let Congress know that they support Warren, who is setting up the agency.
A big reason why we have suffered through the financial crisis and Great Recession is that banking regulatory agencies were looking out for short-term profits at big banks — not looking out for consumers, investors or economic stability. Warren is committed to leveling the playing field.
Wall Street financial industry special interests and their supporters in Congress apparently want to preserve the status quo that cost Americans millions of jobs, billions in taxpayer-funded bailouts and trillions of dollars in pensions, home values and retirement savings.
We cannot afford to let that continue.
Jacquie Germany, who owns Nina’s Nuances interior design firm in Montclair, N.J., is a member of the Washington-based Main Street Alliance National Steering Committee, which advocates for small-business owners.