During the Obama administration, consumer protection agencies gave much-needed relief to Black Americans. However, according to a new research paper, the Trump administration put a muzzle on their power, causing a heightened financial crisis for Black Americans all over the country.
Charlotte Haendler and Rawley Heimer of Boston College just published their latest research paper, titled “The Financial Restitution Gap in Consumer Finance: Insights from Complaints Filed with the CFPB.” Their research concluded that Black Americans who lived in predominantly Black or lower-income zip codes were less likely to receive monetary relief compared to their white counterparts under the Trump regime’s restrictions.
In a nutshell, what that means is under Obama, everyone, regardless of skin color, was able to get financial help if a bank preyed upon them. Under Trump, those same consumer protection agencies designed to protect everyone were, on average, 30 percent less likely to help Black Americans.
This is illegal under a myriad of federal fair-lending laws. Clearly, though, the Trump administration doesn’t seem to care about the legalities of many things, so this information should not be surprising.
Although Black Americans suffering under financial institutions is nothing new, this predatory behavior takes on a new tenor in the wake of the socio-political upheaval of 2020.
As far back as 2011, advocacy groups have been demanding that Black Americans receive protection from consumer protection agencies to protect them from a variety of unethical financial practices, such as payday loans, subprime mortgages, high-interest rate credit cards, and high-risk bank accounts that engaged in overdraft fee gauging.
At that time, Consumer Reports demanded that a new and dedicated Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) be designed specifically for Black Americans, who were more likely to fall victim to these types of financial predations than their white counterparts.
“Too many African Americans have paid the price for an outdated regulatory system that has left our financial system vulnerable to collapse and our families without adequate protections,” they said. “The Bureau seeks to promote transparency and consumer choice while preventing unfair, deceptive, abusive, and discriminatory practices. It uses a wide range of tools—from rule writing and enforcement to financial education and empowerment—to achieve these goals and protect consumers from the harmful practices that contributed to the financial crisis.”
These consumer protection agencies showed some promise under the Obama administration, who created (amongst other things) new mortgage standards to avoid another subprime mortgage crisis that contributed, in large part, to the economic disaster of 2008.
When Trump came along, he installed hedge fund manager John Michael “Mick” Mulvaney, who — unsurprisingly — put a muzzle on the consumer protection agencies’ power, which resulted in a whole new spate of predatory business practices. This included the rise of subprime auto loans, which specifically prey on the Black community.
The CFPB director, who is a Trump appointee, had no comment about the research findings. However, it will be interesting to see what the incoming Biden administration will do about these all but impotent consumer protection agencies.