Our U.S. senators, Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, voted to confirm Kathy Kraninger, the president’s nominee for Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Given the razor-thin margin of the vote, the senators are responsible for installing someone who will make it easier for lenders to engage in exploitative practices.
The CFPB is a watchdog government agency created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Its mission is to stop financial companies from unjustly taking your money. Under its first director, Richard Cordray, the consumer bureau returned $12 billion to nearly 30 million Americans harmed by financial companies and restored order to what was a Wild West financial system.
In stark contrast to Cordray, Kraninger will rise to director without any experience in consumer protection or finance. Kraninger also committed to continuing all the policies of current CFPB head, Mick Mulvaney.
Just before the midterms, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond made a prediction: “If Democrats get in the majority — which I think we will — you will se…
With Mulvaney at the helm, the CFPB has been dropping cases and investigations against predatory lenders; pulling back on fighting lending discrimination and scams against college students; and trying to dismantle its own Payday Rule, which was issued to stop payday loans from trapping people in debt.
The typical payday loan in Louisiana carries an annual interest rate of nearly 400 percent. This is sinful usury.
Research shows taking out a payday loan increases the likelihood a person will lose their bank account, file for bankruptcy, or experience other long-term harms. Payday lenders disproportionately target the poor and communities of color. They also had targeted service members — setting up storefronts near military bases “like bears on a trout stream.” As a veteran and as a pastor whose congregants have been caught in debt traps, I’ve been especially appalled by payday lenders’ behavior.
In 2006, the Department of Defense reported that the prevalence of predatory lending was harming “military readiness and troop morale.” In response, Congress passed, with bipartisan support, and President George W. Bush signed into law the Military Lending Act. The MLA caps interest rates for loans to service members and their dependents at 36 percent.
As part of its supervision of lenders, the CFPB for years checked for compliance with this law.
However, in August, Mick Mulvaney informed CFPB staff they would no longer monitor companies for violations of the MLA. The Pentagon and consumer, military, and veteran groups all voiced opposition to this action, which retired Army Col. Paul Kantwill said “is akin to removing your sentries from guard posts on military compounds.” In other words, the move will facilitate cheating of service members and their families.
At a recent CFPB event in Baton Rouge, the head of the American Legion’s Louisiana branch urged Mulvaney to restart MLA oversight. Mulvaney refused.
Kraninger has been unable to identify a single action of Mulvaney’s tenure at the CFPB with which she disagrees.
Our senators’ vote was disappointing. Kennedy, who serves on the Banking Committee, and Cassidy can help repair this damage through strong congressional oversight. Furthermore, as citizens, we must stay informed and hold Kraninger, and all public officials accountable to serving the needs of the public.
The Rev. Dr. Willie Gable Jr.
pastor, Progressive Baptist Church