President-elect Donald Trump has slowly assembled his picks for top administration posts, including this week’s announcement that his Treasury Secretary nominee is none other than Goldman Sachs alumnus, Steven Mnunchin. Trump is also reportedly considering Goldman Sachs Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn to run the Office of Management and Budget.
This should have us all worried.
If you don’t follow the stock market and financial reports make your eyes glaze over, it is all too easy to ignore what’s going on with the economy and on Wall Street. But if we learned anything from the market collapse of 2008, it’s that we need the protections offered by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
We need to pay attention now. Because no matter your political leaning, we are all consumers.
Trump’s campaign promises to “drain the swamp” and “end corruption in Washington” are looking bleak as he taps some of the wealthiest and most powerful Wall Street executives to fill key roles in his administration. With bankers in these roles, Wall Street interests will be well represented in Washington, creating uncertainty for the future of the Dodd-Frank Act. The law, enacted as a direct result of the financial crisis of 2008, overhauled the financial sector and provided significant protections to consumers.
In the wake of the financial collapse, Dodd-Frank created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which recently cracked down on Wells Fargo for defrauding its own customers. You may recall how the crisis of 2008 put homeownership and retirement accounts for millions in jeopardy, only for the government to bail out dozens of Wall Street firms that caused the disaster in the first place. A firm called Goldman Sachs received bailouts to the tune of $10 billion. And since the bailout, these firms have grown to be stronger than ever.
If you’re not sure who benefits from the Trump nomination of Wall Street execs to his administration, have a look at Goldman Sachs’ stock price since the start of 2016.
Over the course of his campaign, Trump pledged to eliminate the Dodd-Frank Act, saying the regulations make it “very hard for bankers to loan money for people to create jobs, for people with businesses to create jobs. And that has to stop.”
But that same law created the CFPB, which since opening in 2011 has returned billions of dollars to defrauded consumers, following investigations into unfair, deceptive and fraudulent practices at lenders and financial institutions.
When I learned of the Wells Fargo scandal, I vowed to leave the bank for a more consumer-friendly credit union. And it took a while to get my act together, but just two weeks ago, I said goodbye to Wells Fargo and took my banking business to the South Carolina Federal Credit Union. (If you’re feeling motivated to leave, too, read my guide about what it takes to make the switch.)
Joining the credit union wasn’t all sunshine and roses, though. I introduced myself to a membership specialist who went through the usual formalities, and I listened attentively, expecting something bad.
When I didn’t hear anything too nerve wracking, I chose the accounts I wanted, made overdraft selections and left, feeling good about my decision.
When I got home, I opened the member packet that had been placed in my hand as I left the branch. In big, bold letters on the first page is a notice that any dispute arising from the agreement is subject to mandatory arbitration.
That means in becoming a member of the credit union, I have given up my right to bring a claim before a jury, or join in a class action with others who have a similar dispute with the financial institution. In arbitration, I also won’t know what disputes are being raised and resolved by others.
Mandatory arbitration clauses have been targeted by the CFPB as unfair to consumers. They give the financial institution the upper hand. And they’re precisely the reason that even after leaving Wells Fargo, I’d still like to keep one agency that’s looking out for me, the consumer.
If you didn’t leave Wells Fargo, that’s OK. But you don’t have to accept abuse from your financial institution.
Today is the day to write, email or call your elected representatives in Washington to let them know you want to keep the protections of Dodd-Frank and the CFPB. We need someone to look out for our money, our investments and our retirement savings.
We know who’s looking out for Wall Street. And if you tweet to him, he might just tweet you back.