Today in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch I read an article about the override of the Governor’s veto of SB656 (the guns unlimited “constitutional” carry gun law). In order to underline the dangerous potential of the new law, Kevin Allbrand, an official with the Fraternal Order of Police, is quoted saying “this is not some type of banking regulation, this is public safety and law enforcement safety.”
Not some kind of banking regulation? What kind of fool thinks we can ignore what happens with our money and still live safe, happy lives? Guns kill, it’s true, but what legislators do about banking regulation affects many more lives than even horrible gun laws.
Remember the 2008 Bush recession? Poor regulatory choices created a crisis that nearly plunged us into a depression rivaling that of the 1930s, a very bad time for lots of people. I bring the recession up not just because it’s a good example of the harm perpetrated by regulatory negligence and financial malfeasance, but because a gaggle of House legislators are working hard to return financial regulation to the pre-2008 status quo ante that nearly cratered our economy.
And right up front of that gaggle, you’ll find Missouri’s Ann Wagner (R-2). She gets lots of money from the financial industry and does her best to represent their interests. If you’re concerned about your financial welfare, you should pay attention to her pro-banking, anti-consumer priorities
Wagner has been a persistent player in Republican efforts to deregulate the banking industry back to its pre-2008 status. Her efforts to derail Department of Labor (DOL) fiuciary rules have been incorporated into the The Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs (CHOICE) Act, a recent Republican effort to replace the Dodd-Frank Act which was enacted to protect Americans from the banking abuses typical before the Bush recession..
Wagner has persistently fought to strangle new DOL fiduciary rules that mandate that investment advisers privilege their clients interests over their own. Under the new rules, financial agents can no longer encourage clients to invest in inappropriate or sub-standard products which may kick back substantial fees to the advisor responsible for the sale. Wagner, and her generous banker clients, claim that if financial advisers can’t swindle their clients, they won’t reap enough of a profit to make advising small investors worthwhile. Only Wagner never uses the word “swindle.” See how it works?
Wagner has tried twice in the past few years to undo the new rules via direct legislation. Her Retail Investor Protection Act, H.R. 1090 – note the Bizarro World title – was aimed at incapacitating DOL rule-making ability in essentially the same way as her earlier effort, H.R. 2374. Both bills limped off to die elsewhere after passing out of the House. Apparently Wagner thinks the third time’s the charm since her zombie legislation is now back, incorporated into the CHOICE act.
The CHOICE Act, to be fair, contains many other problematic provisions apart from Wagner’s specific contributions. For example it proposes to repeal the Volcker Rule, and the Durbin amendment which limits fees for credit card transactions.
Notably, it would also cripple the GOP’s (and Wagner’s) special bête noire , the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau (CFPB) – the same agency that just fined Wells Fargo $185 million after exposing a scam wherein bank employees opened 2 million unauthorized, accounts for customers that fraudulently generated $1.5 million in fees for the bank – and earned bonuses and other incentives for the employees. Even before this coup, the CFPB had returned $11 billion to consumers who “were cheated on their mortgages, credit cards, checking accounts, and other financial products.” The CFPB is by any measure effective in pursuing its goals. Too effective for financial institutions used to running wild with our money.
It all just goes to show that when their financial industry clients howl, Wagner’s congressional clique gets to work to fix their ouchie. Voila the CHOICE Act. And if consumers bleed, so be it.