Watchdog Groups Call on Inspector General to Investigate CFPB Director’s Relationship with Payday Lenders

As Acting Director Mick Mulvaney prepares to step down, questions about violations of ethics regulations during his tenure at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau remain unanswered.

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2018— Mick Mulvaney, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director and Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), should be investigated for potential violations of ethics regulations according to a complaint filed today with the Inspector General for the CFPB by Change to Win and Americans for Financial Reform.

“Acting Director Mulvaney has done everything in his power to shift the CFPB away from its mission as a vigorous consumer watchdog. Nowhere are his historic conflicts and ethical misconduct so clear as in his treatment of the payday lending industry. We fear without a check on this abuse of power, the Trump administration’s penchant for servicing the business community will continue at the CFPB—an entity that exists to protect vulnerable consumers,” said Michael Zucker, director of Change to Win’s Retail Initiatives Group.

While a Congressman representing South Carolina’s 5th congressional district, Mulvaney accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the payday lending industry, and introduced or supported legislation to eliminate the CFPB or weaken its regulatory powers on numerous occasions.

“As Acting Director of the CFPB, Mick Mulvaney is expected to protect consumers from abusive practices and take action against companies that break the law,” said Rion Dennis, Financial Reform Advocate at Americans for Financial Reform. “But instead of enforcing common-sense protections for borrowers, Mulvaney has spent his time undermining the Bureau by advancing a deregulatory ideology that puts consumers dead last. Before Mulvaney heads for the exit, we must examine the particulars of his tenure to avoid eroding the CFPB’s core mission even further.”

Since his appointment to the CFPB, Mulvaney has maintained a cozy relationship with the payday lenders while consistently working to undermine the Bureau’s regulation of the industry:

  • In January 2018, the former CEO of World Acceptance Corporation emailed Mulvaney to express her gratitude that the CFPB’s investigation into the company had been dropped.
  • In February 2018, Mulvaney discussed the CFPB’s ongoing case against the lender Cashcall with its CEO J. Paul Reddam. Mulvaney told Reddam that he thought all the payday lending cases had been dismissed.
  • Although the CFPB is required to meet with its Consumer Advisory Board at least twice a year to discuss emerging issues and concerns, Mulvaney cancelled the in-person meetings and eventually fired all 25 board members.

Under Mulvaney’s leadership, the CFPB terminated an enforcement actions and dropped an investigations into payday and installment lenders:

  • In January 2018, the Bureau voluntarily dismissed a lawsuit brought against four payday and installment lenders. CFPB staff told reporters that “Mulvaney decided to drop the lawsuit even through the entire career enforcement staff wanted to press ahead with it.”
  • Also in January 2018, installment lender World Acceptance Corporation announced that it had been informed by the CFPB that it was terminating an investigation into the company’s marketing and lending practices and would not pursue enforcement action.

Acting Director Mulvaney’s defense of the payday lending industry contravenes the mission of the CFPB and likely violates his obligation to act impartially in the performance of his duties.

Now that President Trump has nominated Kathy Kraninger, one of Mulvany’s deputies at the OMB, to serve as the next CFPB director, questions of ethical violations must be investigated to ensure the CFPB will uphold its mission to protect consumers going forward.

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Change to Win Statement on Kathy Kraninger Senate Banking Committee Hearing

PRESS CONTACT: Drew Zimmerman
212-341-7070 | drew.zimmerman@changetowin.org

WASHINGTON, July 19, 2018– Kathy Kraninger, the current Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Associate Director and President Trump’s nominee for Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), is testifying today before the Senate Banking Committee. Change to Win opposes her confirmation, based on Kraninger’s limited experience in protecting consumers from harmful financial practices.

“Kathy Kraninger’s total lack of expertise in consumer protection and financial services makes her a poor choice to serve as Director for the CFPB,” said Michael Zucker, director of Change to Win’s Retail Initiatives Group. “The Bureau was created in the aftermath of the Great Recession, and has a core mission of shielding consumers from the same predatory lending practices that led to the financial crisis. We need a consumer champion to head the CFPB, a leader with the expertise to hold lenders accountable for abusive practices that hurt working families and have disastrous ripple effects throughout the economy. Kraninger is decidedly not that leader.”

Kraninger also has a troubling history of mismanagement which includes failing to properly oversee the terrorist watch list, participating in the Trump Administration’s family separation immigration policy, and overseeing agencies that abandoned Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

Change to Win and its allies seek a CFPB Director who will uphold the agency’s core mission of protecting consumers, and will not be beholden to Wall Street or payday lenders.

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Good Jobs Nation Applauds the Introduction of a $15 Minimum Wage Bill By Democratic Lawmakers

PRESS RELEASE

May 25, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, US Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) formally introduced bills in both the House and the Senate to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour.

Below is a statement from Joseph Geevarghese, Director of Good Jobs Nation:

“Today, we applaud Democrats in Congress for drawing a line in the sand and uniting around a pro-worker agenda. They must resist the attacks on working Americans that the GOP and President Trump are embarking on, while at the same time providing a vision of what America should be. It starts with raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. No one who works full time should have to rely on public assistance to make ends meet.

“During the campaign, President Trump promises American workers ‘more jobs, better wages’ but after reaching the 100 day mark in office, he has done exactly the opposite. He has rolled back protections for federal contract workers against wage theft and other labor law violations at a time when wage theft is an epidemic that is eating away at the most American of concepts – fair pay for a hard day’s work. His proposed budget cuts back programs that workers rely on to make ends meet and includes no provisions to help workers improve their working conditions.

“Good Jobs Nation will continue to hold the President and other politicians accountable to the American working class, and we will continue pushing to make sure the federal government raises up workers and doesn’t keep them in poverty.”

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Good Jobs Nation Calls Out House Republicans For Passing Bill to Make Wage Theft Legal

PRESS RELEASE

May 3, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC – The following is a statement from Joseph Geevarghese, the Director of Good Jobs Nation, on the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage of the so-called “Working Families Flexibility Act,” a bill that would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to remove the right for workers to receive time-and-a-half pay for overtime:

“This bill is nothing more than a blatant Republican effort to legalize wage theft. It offers American workers no new benefits while giving employers a brand new avenue to cheat workers out of their hard-earned pay.

It’s no surprise – Republicans have spent decades deconstructing the basic labor protections that built America’s middle class and that low-wage workers depend on to keep the lights on and put food on their tables. This is just the latest example of Republicans leaving no CEO behind in their economic race to the bottom.

The U.S. Senate – and President Trump – must stand with workers and reject this legislation. President Trump promised that every policy decision he made would create ‘more jobs and better wages’ for American workers. This legislation does the exact opposite. It’s time for him to keep his promises – and protect the very workers who helped put him in the Oval Office.”

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Consumer group wants CFPB probe into unethical sales practices and fraud at T-Mobile

PRESS RELEASE

December 14, 2016

In the wake of the Wells Fargo fake-account scandal. . .

Consumer group wants CFPB probe into unethical sales practices and fraud at T-Mobile

  • New report from consumer and labor watchdog Change to Win Retail Initiatives finds 36 percent of polled T-Mobile customers say they’ve had unauthorized charges. CFPB complaint filed in light of these findings.
  • 83 percent of T-Mobile employees surveyed feel pressure to add services to customers’ accounts without permission.
  • The complaint comes after the CFPB issued new guidance about sales incentive programs’ “risks to consumers, especially when they create an unrealistic culture of high-pressure targets.”

NEW YORK, Dec. 14, 2016—Watchdog group Change to Win Retail Initiatives (CtW) is calling on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today to investigate T-Mobile’s high-pressure sales culture and how it is incentivizing unethical practices that lead to fraud.

The CFPB complaint is based on a report, Under Pressure at the Un-Carrier: How hard-selling at T-Mobile hurts employees and customers, also released today. CtW’s research determines that overly-aggressive sales metrics and intense pressure at T-Mobile creates incentives which put customers at risk for fraudulent enrollment: unauthorized services, unrequested equipment, and additional “ghost” lines unknowingly added to their accounts.

“I compare what’s going on with our front end to Wells Fargo,” said one T-Mobile employee who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “People are under pressure to do things they wouldn’t normally do.”

Sales associates described T-Mobile’s sales goals as “unrealistic” and “crazy.” For example, workers said that they are told to add the company’s JUMP! program (or another insurance plan) to 80 percent of new devices sold. Many customers do not want to pay—or simply cannot afford—the $9-$12 dollars per month for insurance on each individual device.

CtW analyzed 35,000 consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission, surveyed 2,200 T-Mobile customers, polled nearly 500 employees and conducted in-depth interviews with 17 of them. Key findings include:

  • Over 1-in-3 T-Mobile customers surveyed (36 percent) said they experienced an unauthorized charge on their bill. The most common issue, reported by 43.5 percent of these consumers, was enrollment in the company’s JUMP! program or other device insurance without consent.
  • From 2013 to 2016, the FTC received a significantly higher ratio of complaints about fraudulent charges at T-Mobile than its competitors—43 percent higher than AT&T, 70 percent higher than Sprint and double the ratio of Verizon.
  • 83 percent of T-Mobile employees surveyed by CtW said they feel pressure to add services to customers’ accounts without permission.

“These high-pressure practices are not the result of a few unprincipled sales people but stem from a culture that puts growth ahead of ethics,” said Michael Zucker, Director of Change to Win Retail Initiatives. “T-Mobile must reform how it sets and enforces its sales goals, as well as how it monitors consumer complaints. In the meantime, T-Mobile customers should be vigilant about the charges on their account, especially as the company pushes electronic billing.”

In the wake of the Wells Fargo fake account scandal, the CFPB recently issued new guidance regarding sales incentive programs’ “risks to consumers, especially when they create an unrealistic culture of high-pressure targets.” The agency has previously levied $120 million in fines against Verizon and Sprint for fraudulent enrollment practices.

For the past year, Change to Win Retail Initiatives has raised concerns about T-Mobile’s deceptive advertising and questionable debt collection practices. The group has a ten year history of advocating for worker and consumer protections and is a part of the 5.5 million member Change to Win labor federation.

 

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