300 Million Reasons to Love the CFPB
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- You gotta love a winner. Especially a winner who shows the inclination and promise to make life better for the majority of the nation's citizens -- say about 300 million of us.
Having recently celebrated its first birthday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should be very proud of itself for having accomplished so much with so little drama.
Oh, there was drama about the CFPB. Depending on your point of view, the CFPB was either going to strangle the banks in red tape or defend consumers from those swashbuckling pirates of Wall Street. The reality is that in spite of a raucous birth and rancor on Capitol Hill about its creation, the agency accomplished much in its first year.
The very first thing the CFPB did was to create a user-friendly website and invited consumers to submit complaints. And submit complaints they did -- several hundred thousand in only a month or so. This stream of complaints allows the agency to take the pulse of consumers and at the same time provide feedback to banks about how their customers feel. All in all, a very good idea.
The CFPB also undertook several initiatives to help consumers compare credit card fees and to guide students to navigate student loans and other financial aid. While this sounds like pretty tame stuff, these aids provide a sorely needed independent framework to help consumers make more informed decisions.
More controversial was the fine assessed to one of the nation's largest banks for being less than candid with consumers about their credit card protection plan products. Capital One Bank>(COF) was ordered to pay refunds and fines totaling $210 million. Within a matter of days, other large banks were making decisions to abandon their card protection plan offerings.
Especially meritorious was the way the entire matter was handled by the CFPB. In an age where politicians hold press conferences and make announcements for the express purpose of attracting attention, the punishment handed down was hardly known outside the banking industry. This calm no-drama approach seems to exemplify the demeanor of the CFPB. There is much to admire in an agency that goes about its work quietly and calmly -- yet clearly carries a big stick they are not afraid to use.