Monday, October 12, 2009

Comsumer Financial Protection Debate Heating Up

This weekend's New York Times had a piece by Joe Nocera titled Have Banks No Shame? in favor of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA). Nocera hits it plainly remarking the CFPA's "sole goal would be to try to keep bank — and nonbank — customers from being gouged, deceived or otherwise taken advantage of." It seems like a simple proposition. How could anyone be opposed to this? Of course, there are detractors. The American Banker's Association's (ABA) website has as one of two "urgent action alerts" the opposition of the CPFA. The ABA explains "a separate consumer regulator is not necessary and is in direct contradiction with the existing approach which recognizes that consumer protection and safety and soundness are inextricably bound and should not be separated." Not necessary is a translation of business as usual. A recent editorial at the Wall Street Journal argues that the CFPA will unleash Fifty Eliot Spitzers on the banks for the purpose of harassment. Both represent a call to defeat the CPFA. This piece simply sounds in scare tactics.

Todd Zywicki of George Mason has argued one of the more reasoned oppositions that I've seen. His basic argument seems to be that the CFPA will not increase market competition and goes beyond historical restraints on lending. Zywicki believes that credit card debit is simply in substitution for other debt that consumers have always had, the CFPA will increase the cost of credit and that most consumers understand the products (See, Zywicki Testimony). I disagree with Zywicki on a number of points, particularly with respect to complexity of and transparency in marketing of financial products and basic fairness. I don't believe that consumers understand the terms offerred on financial products or even that lenders and banks actually disclose all relevant terms (c.f., FDIC Study on Bank Overdrafts). Moreover, without a regulator whose mission it is to take up consumer issues, there are impediments to regulatory intervention in products that are not as much on the Federal Reserve's top list, such as debit card overdraft fees. Nocera pretty much sums it up well: "The sooner we can pass the thing, the better."

Here's an interview that Zywicki arguing against the CFPA:


1 comment:

Best Credit Cards said...

I enjoyed reading them. Thank you for sharing. I'll keep on visiting your blog and hope to read more topics and information!