Reining in ‘unchecked’ authority

Published 11:31 am Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Dodd-Frank Act created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) with the intention of overseeing consumer protection in the financial sector, taking over from other federal agencies. 

It was equipped, however, with unprecedented authority and an entirely unaccountable governance structure. The agency has been allowed to run roughshod over the financial sector without much consideration for consumers or the rule of law. Last Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled the CFPB’s foundational structure unconstitutional. This is a welcome decision after multiple efforts by House Republicans to inject greater accountability to the agency.

Five years since its implementation, the CFPB remains an opaque and dangerously unaccountable agency equipped with unrivaled power over America’s financial system and consumers’ personal data. In actuality, it is using its power to adopt policies that often harm, rather than help, the very Americans it is tasked with protecting.

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I have repeatedly heard from citizens across Virginia’s 5th District telling me of the struggles induced by the CFPB indicating the agency’s unchecked authority is restricting consumer choice, creating an atmosphere of economic uncertainty and imposing undue regulatory burdens that increase costs.

One particularly telling data point is the dramatic slowdown in the rate at which new banks are starting up. Prior to the financial crisis, roughly 100 new banks were established each year across the country, but since the passage of Dodd-Frank, the rate has dropped to about one bank per year. Bank consolidation has also accelerated dramatically as big banks have a greater capacity to absorb regulatory costs than do small ones. While many factors go into these trends, the CFPB’s heavy-handed regulatory regime is certainly one of them.

Without appropriate oversight from Congress, the CFPB will be able to continue imposing sweeping and restrictive regulations on community financial institutions across the 5th District at a time when access to credit for small businesses, farms and families is more essential than ever. Real consumer protection requires we shift power from bureaucrats in Washington who implement one size fits all regulations to those who are most affected. True consumer protection empowers consumers and bankers, not the bureaucrats in Washington.

Though this recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is a step in the right direction, appropriate consumer protections are best achieved through legislative reforms, not by empowering one unaccountable individual with such a crucial task. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to advancing commonsense policies to enhance accountability and transparency at the CFPB to ensure their actions do not come at the expense of 5th District families and small businesses.

Robert Hurt represents Farmville, Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached at his Farmville office at 434) 395-0120 or by email at