Posts Tagged ‘Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’

Service of Pushing the Envelope: What Does it Take for a Bank to Get the Message?

Monday, December 4th, 2017

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Parents expect their kids to test them daily but is it natural for a bank, caught red-handed in one scandal, to again test a federal regulator with another cheat just a year later? I’m referring to Wells Fargo, once a stalwart bank with stellar reputation and the third largest in the US.

Last year staff, to gain bonuses, created as many as 3.5 million accounts, some fictitious, others without customer approval. In addition to the chink in its standing, this cost the bank a $35 million penalty, restitution to some customers and a freeze on executive golden parachutes. Plus the chairman was forced to resign.

What now? “A federal regulator has advised Wells Fargo & Co.’s board of directors that it is weighing a formal enforcement action against the bank over improprieties in its auto-insurance and mortgage operations,” according to Gretchen Morgenson and Emily Glazer in their Wall Street Journal article, “Wells Fargo Gets New Warning.” The regulator is the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency [OCC].

Photo: dialforloan.com

The reporters wrote: “This summer, the bank conceded in a news release that for years it had forced nearly 600,000 customers who financed their car purchases with Wells Fargo to pay for collision coverage they didn’t need. The bank said about 20,000 customers had their cars wrongly repossessed. Those customers failed to pay the improper insurance charges.”

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In addition they reported: “The bank has also said it charged some customers improper fees to extend the interest-rate commitments they received from Wells Fargo on their mortgage applications. In October the bank said it is reaching out to around 110,000 customers who paid a total of $98 million in such fees, and expects refunds to be lower than that total because, the bank said, it ‘believes a substantial number of those fees were appropriately charged under its policy.’”

The OCC “gave the bank credit for identifying the irregularities in its insurance operations but characterized Wells Fargo’s management of compliance risk as ‘weak.’ The report also said the bank had underestimated the amount of restitution it owed to wronged customers.”

Does today’s business atmosphere, inspired by Washington, give signals to businesses to push the envelope and hope for the best? Recent indicators include loosening of climate regulations, and the appointment by the president of Mick Mulvaney as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau when Mulvaney doesn’t believe in restrictions. Do the small fries in this country feel sufficiently threatened yet? Why would a bank allow its reputation to take such a beating?

Photo: cardtrak.com

 

Service of Keeping a Lid on Grievances: Cripple the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Complaint Database

Monday, July 31st, 2017

Photo: funusualsuspects.com

You may want to take a quick look at the Consumer Complaint Database maintained by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau [CFPB] before it joins rolled-back EPA regulations and watchdogs that once protected American consumers that are severely relaxed or gone. The goals are the same: Make it easier and cheaper to conduct [big] business, in this case, for banks.

You’d read on the website: “Each week we send thousands of consumers’ complaints about financial products and services to companies for response. Those complaints are published here after the company responds or after 15 days, whichever comes first. By adding their voice, consumers help improve the financial marketplace.”

Photo: consumerfinance.gov

Copy on the home page continues: “By submitting a complaint, consumers can be heard by financial companies, get help with their own issues, and help others avoid similar ones. Every complaint provides insight into problems that people are experiencing, helping us identify inappropriate practices and allowing us to stop them before they become major issues. The result: better outcomes for consumers, and a better financial marketplace for everyone.”

Yuka Hayashi addressed the issue in her Wall Street Journal article, “Battle Is On Over Government’s Version of Yelp for Banks -White House says government complaint database is unfair to banks, but consumers say it can spur action.”

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She wrote, “Responding to calls from industry groups, the Treasury Department in June recommended restricting access to the data to federal and state regulators.” She reported that since it was founded in 2011, consumers have filed 800,000 complaints the public can see, 1.2 million in all.

“The dispute highlights areas of friction as the Trump administration and other Republicans consider rolling back rules put in place after the financial crisis,” she wrote. “Those pushing for loosened rules say removing onerous and costly requirements would encourage more lending and economic growth. Opponents say such changes would bring back reckless behavior that caused the financial crisis.”

Photo: salon.com

A St. Paul social worker asked his student loan company to lower his monthly payments and after four to five tries, the temporary solution increased his monthly bill Hayashi reported. Two days after he posted a complaint on the CFPB complaint database, they sent him “several repayment options.” The social worker credits the CFPB.

Hayashi wrote that the Treasury Department felt the site “subjects companies to unwarranted reputational risk.” However, she continued, “Consumer advocates and some financial-services experts… say that the portal’s public nature is what gives it teeth.

What do banks think? “The bureau has failed to address the significant problems in the accuracy, integrity and usefulness of the information reported in the database,” Virginia O’Neill, senior vice president at the Center for Regulatory Compliance at the American Bankers Association told Hayashi.

Did you know you could post complaints about dealings gone south with a financial institution? Have you had a nasty banking issue? Do you believe that the complaints on the Consumer Complaint Database should be hidden from the public or allowed to be seen, as they have been for six years?

Addendum: In The Wall Street Journal’s August 7th issue, Andrew Ackerman wrote “A Republican-backed effort to overturn a rule making it easier for consumers to sue banks has hit a snag: the Senate.

“At issue is a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule approved in July barring fine-print requirements that consumers use arbitration to resolve disputes over financial services. The rule makes it easier for consumers to join class-action lawsuits against banks and credit-card companies. Though fiercely fought by the financial industry, it is set to go into effect in March.”

In addition: ” However, support in the Senate is uncertain. No Democrats are likely to back the effort, and Republicans, with their slim majority, can’t afford to lose more than two GOP votes. Several Republican senators have expressed reservations about voting to overturn the regulation, worried they may be portrayed as siding with banks and against consumers.”

This is something so easily lost among all the distractions for consumers to keep an eye out for.

Photo: survivalkit.com

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