WV Center on Budget and Policy > Press > OpEds > Linda Frame: (Wrong) CHOICE Act Would Hurt WV Consumers

Linda Frame: (Wrong) CHOICE Act Would Hurt WV Consumers

May 26, 2017

Charleston Gazette-Mail – Congress could soon take up a dangerous piece of legislation that has the potential to cause immense harm to West Virginia working families and retirees, all in the name of lining the pockets of big banks and Wall Street billionaires.

The so-called Financial CHOICE Act would radically roll back the rules put in place after the 2008 financial crisis to keep big banks from crashing the economy again. And it would eviscerate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which, for years, has guarded consumers against deceptive and predatory financial products.

If anything like this legislation gets signed into law, financial institutions ranging from “too-big-to-fail” banks to mortgage lenders, payday lenders, credit card companies, and debt collectors will once again be free to write a lot of their own rules.

Most Americans, regardless of political party, think financial regulation should be stronger, not weaker. We remember the financial crisis, when roughly 9 million Americans lost their jobs, including over 9,000 West Virginians; the average middle-class household saw half its wealth evaporate in the space of a few years; and almost 10 million families lost their homes.

 The Consumer Bureau has begun to bring basic rules of fair play to the banking and lending markets, while delivering nearly $12 billion in relief to more than 29 million Americans cheated by financial companies large and small. For example, thanks to the Consumer Bureau, Wells Fargo was forced to pay $100 million in penalties for opening accounts in the names of millions of customers who hadn’t approved them.

Could the Wrong CHOICE Act strip West Virginians of these new protections as well as open our borders to payday lenders who have tried to get their foot in the door for years? Keeping these predatory lenders out of our state saves us $48 million each year in fees, and protects the 1 in 4 West Virginia households which has inadequate access to banks. It’s no wonder that the industry wants in and that big banks and predatory lenders want to cripple the agency and all of the financial reforms put in place after the last crisis. And they are spending big money to get their way — $2.7 million per day in lobbying and political contributions over the past two years.

When Congress takes up this bill, it will tell us a great deal about which side our representatives are on. Wall Street, or their constituents. Our representatives in DC need to make the right choice and put hard-working West Virginians ahead of the big banks and their lobbyists.