U.S. Chamber of Commerce launches new attacks on Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

U.S. Chamber of Commerce launches new attacks on Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

July 17, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has always looked out for the rights of industries with money, and specifically the rights of those industries to pay little in taxes, follow as few safety and anti-pollution regulations as possible and, of course, scam the living bejeezus out of whoever they damn well want to. But we probably would have missed their newest attack on CFPB Director Rohit Chopra’s “ideologically driven agenda to radically change the nature of America’s financial services industry” if the Los Angeles Times‘ Michael Hiltzik hadn’t highlighted the Chamber’s almost satirically over-the-top announcement of it.

Here it is, and it is very funny. Never has a collection of wealthy tycoons suffered like they are suffering now, according to them.

In addition to ticking off commerce buzzwords like “ideologically driven” and “radical,” they’ve got, well, pretty much all the others in there too? Here are the Chamber’s complaints: In “various speeches,” Chopra has voiced “extreme and inaccurate views” such as, quote:

• “Described ‘repeat offenses‘ as ‘par for the course for many dominant firms.‘“

Yeah, I mean … duh? This is extremely well-documented, right? The name Wells Fargo is now synonymous with consumer fraud, and that ain’t because they just did one little crooked thing and called it done. The biggest financial firms are regularly slapped with fines.

• “Stated that financial regulators were ‘…clueless and often corrupt lawyers and economists…often seen as auditioning for a future job…‘“

Again, the more we hear from this Chopra guy the more impressive he seems to be! It has indeed been a problem that federal administrations (Donald Trump) have appointed (Donald Trump) regulatory heads who have (Donald Trump) worked to weaken the regulations they were tasked with enforcing before heading back off to the financial sector for lobbying jobs. This is very nearly the definition of how our federal government currently functions. I suppose you could take issue with calling that “corrupt” because, hey, if everybody else is doing it too it can’t be so bad, but da Chamber insisting that the CFPB’s entire current agenda must be scuttled because the mean man hurt their fabulously wealthy fee-fees is, gonna go out on a limb here, a bit much.

Christ, how many people who work for or with the Chamber of Commerce itself are ex-federal government? What’s the percentage? The Chamber’s executive vice president “spent nearly 20 years working in the House of Representatives,” was Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s deputy chief of staff, and “oversaw policy formulation in the leader’s office.” The Chamber Foundation president “served on the speechwriting staff for President George H.W. Bush.” Another was legislative assistant for a senator and a House member. Another was “legislative director for the then-chairman of the International Economic Policy and Trade Subcommittee in the House of Representatives.” Commerce guy Jack Howard has “more than 25 years of government service” working for George Bush, the other George Bush, Dennis Hastert, Newt Gingrich, and Trent Lott. And that’s just from the first dozen or so names!

Oh noes, how could anyone ever think that the people tasked with writing our laws and regulations might see themselves as “auditioning” for future jobs with the industries those rules are meant to rein in? What kind of monster would think such things? Who would ever say such things out loud?

Yeah, get bent on that one.

• “Coined the term ‘junk fees’ as ‘exploitive income streams’ in a heavy-handed attempt to vilify legal products that have well-disclosed terms.”

Oh my Gaaaaaaaawd please stop talking. The man called your grifting evil fee structures designed to screw your poorest customers out of cash “junk fees.” He didn’t say “and the companies that keep abusing those fee structures need to have their headquarters burned to the ground,” he didn’t say anything about torches or tar or heads on pikes, he was simply rude in publicly referring to them. Please take a moment to dab your f–king eyes with hundred-dollar bills and compose yourselves.

It’s impossible to even take this whining seriously. We all know the sort of “legal products” that Chopra and Extremely Many Other Industry Watchers have been calling “junk” or “exploitive,” because the news has been full of them for a very long time. As Hiltzik points out, Chopra merely noting that banks were sucking up $15 billion a year in overdraft charges alone was embarrassing enough to the industry to cause some of those fees to be lowered. The entire payday loan industry is one long list of “exploitive” but “legal” products.

You might be familiar with a particular exploitive practice from credit card companies: retooling the monthly due dates for your bills so that each one is due in slightly less than a month, which makes those bills come due on a different (earlier) date from each month to the next. Didn’t catch that when they pulled it on you? Ha ha ha, you now owe us late fees and interest, suckers.

Again, are there consumers in America not familiar with “junk fees” for things? Ridiculous charges to get your own money out of your own bank account? Overdraft charges caused by banks rearranging transactions so that deposits artificially happen “after” withdrawals? Fees for seeing a teller? Fees for not seeing a teller? Fees for parking in a northward facing direction on a Tuesday? Bill schedules changing on a whim? Emails from your bank offering you a free product that will, surprise, cost you a monthly fee every month thereafter and can only be canceled by visiting the bank’s home office in the bowels of Mt. Doom?

Here’s a tip: If your corporation is not charging people “junk fees,” Chopra wasn’t talking about you. Oh—you think he was? Well then, sport, it might be time for a little introspection. Take a little walk around a lake to clear your head, contemplate your life choices, or whatever floats your extremely large and expensive boat.

This is a bit like the men who walk into coffee shops carrying loaded AR-15s and then getting dramatic when everyone around them gives them dirty looks. Decades of playing fast and loose with financial regulations to often-devastating effects has resulted in mild approbation? Heavens.

Look, y’all, we quite recently came out of a major world recession caused by financial industries standardizing wide-ranging crookedness as an entirely new product that they could then sell each other so that everybody could make nice big bonuses while passing the bag of crookedness to the next guy. It was the definition of a “junk” product produced by lawmakers and regulators screwing with the rules to allow their future employers to sell Absolute Crap, and it was “repeat offenses” that made the whole scheme work to begin with, and it was “repeat offenses” that left each bank unable to cope with the consequences of its own crookedness without the federal government, that is all your consumers, stepping in to make you whole while everyone who managed the scheme got away with exactly the same bonuses as usual. It was institutionalized corruption! It was a complete shitshow from top to bottom! And we all propped you up, for reasons history can only begin to fathom!

It’s now 2022 and the same people that demanded and wrote the looser federal regulations so that financial firms could sell each other intentionally crappy products are now sitting in U.S. Chamber of Commerce offices whining that the federal department created precisely to police that sort of gargantuan crookedness going forward is being mean and is questioning their “products.” Yeah, well, not every federal agency can be headed by Mick Mulvaney forever. So sorry.

This is not serious stuff. The Chamber says it’s going to be spending “six figures” on a digital ad campaign whining about the “out-of-control” Chopra, which is only notable because the only people in America who give a flying shit about the things Chopra says in speeches are the people paying the Chamber of Commerce money to distribute those ads, so the Chamber is essentially launching an ad campaign advertising their outrage to … themselves. Sure, and again: Whatever floats your boat on that one. I’m sure the rest of the baffled public will find real resonance in your claims that, uh, the financial industry leaders that have been screwing them over for decades are the real victims here.

Hey, though, it’s pretty impressive how quickly the U.S. corporate community decided they no longer gave a damn about attempted coups or violence in the Capitol because at least the people who organized the coup didn’t want them to rein in pricy overdraft fees. Funny that.

And get bent again on that one, by the way. Damn post-capitalist fascism-agnostic planet-fucking nihilist ratbastards.



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