The Consumer Financial Protection Agency: Love It or Hate It, U.S. Financial Regulation Needs It
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As the U.S. economy begins a tentative recovery from recession, Congress is debating financial regulatory reform legislation. Whether a stand-alone consumer financial protection agency becomes a centerpiece of the new regulatory regime or a throw-away bargaining chip remains to be seen. In any assessment of the subprime-mortgage-crisis-gone-global, with the benefit of honest hindsight, failures of consumer protection loom large. In the wake of this crisis, just as in the aftermath of the banking collapse of the 1930s, Congress has an opportunity to restructure a broken financial regulatory system. More than band aids are required. If the reforms Congress adopts now are to secure a lengthy period of financial stability, as was the case following the New Deal era’s reenvisioning of financial regulation, consumer protection cannot continue to be marginalized. Congress could muster the leadership and political backbone to create a new, independent agency whose sole mission is to protect consumers of financial products from the abuses which contributed to the present financial crisis. The prospect of such a major shift in the allocation of regulatory authority has already raised a hue and cry from beneficiaries of the status quo in the federal regulatory agencies and the financial industry lobby. This article analyzes The Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act of 2009, as passed by the House of Representatives. Each section of the article identifies a key point of controversy, with arguments pro and con, coming down in favor of an independent consumer financial protection agency.
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