It worked

| By

Not long ago, I was at a McDonald's when a man came over, held out his hand and said he had been having trouble with a fee his bank had charged. It wasn't huge, but he said the bank should not have charged him. He called and argued, talked with customer relations, asked to speak to a manager -- and he got a big, fat zero.

Then he said he remembered about the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and told the bank he would file a complaint. They put him on hold and then came back and said they would reverse the fee. The agency worked.

Today is the fourth anniversary of Dodd-Frank, the law that established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- and the third anniversary of the date the CFPB became an independent agency. And in those three years, the agency has done a lot to help level the playing field:

  • The CFPB has forced big financial companies to return more than $4 billion dollars to consumers they cheated.
  • The CFPB has put in place rules to protect consumers from a whole host of dangerous financial products and to make sure that companies can't issue the kinds of deceptive mortgages that contributed to millions of foreclosures.
  • The CFPB has helped tens of thousands of consumers resolve complaints against financial institutions that cheated them. 

Sure, there is a lot of financial reform work left undone. The big banks today are dramatically bigger than they were in 2008 and they are taking on new risks, and I think that means we need a 21st Century Glass-Steagall law to break them up. But I celebrate the progress we've had so far: When big banks have to listen to their customers a little more, the playing field starts to level out just a little bit more.    

The big banks spent more than a million dollars a day lobbying against financial reforms, and top lobbyists said that killing off the consumer agency was their number one priority.  Even now, the Republicans continue the attack, introducing bills that would take the legs out from under the agency.

We didn't have the lobbying muscle or the money that the big banks had. But we got that agency because we fought for it. We joined forces online and through groups, and we made our voices heard. And now, after three years, it's starting to work.

I smiled at the guy who said he got his money back. I smiled because I love to hear how the CFPB works. But mostly I smiled because it reminded me of what we can do when we fight.  

Happy anniversary!

Elizabeth Warren takes on Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz

| By

Elizabeth went to Minnesota last weekend to support Senator Al Franken at the 2014 Humphrey-Mondale Dinner.

It was her first time speaking at one of those big Democratic Party events – and Elizabeth didn't waste any time taking on Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, the Tea Party and the national GOP.

The event wasn't televised, but we just got the video clip of Elizabeth's speech. Trust me, you're going to want to see this for yourself:

When you're done watching Elizabeth shred the Republicans' vision for America, don't forget to share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Everyone should see this clip.

We don't run this country for corporations

| By

Hobby Lobby doesn't want to cover its employees' birth control on company insurance plans. In fact, they're so outraged about women having access to birth control that they've taken the issue all the way to the Supreme Court.

I cannot believe that we live in a world where we would even consider letting some big corporation deny the women who work for it access to the basic medical tests, treatments or prescriptions that they need based on vague moral objections.

But here's the scary thing: With the judges we've got on the Supreme Court, Hobby Lobby might actually win.

The current Supreme Court has headed in a very scary direction.

Recently, three well-respected legal scholars examined almost 20,000 Supreme Court cases from the last 65 years. They found that the five conservative justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court are in the top 10 most pro-corporate justices in more than half a century.

And Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts? They were number one and number two.

Take a look at the win rate of the national Chamber of Commerce cases before the Supreme Court. According to the Constitutional Accountability Center, the Chamber was winning 43% of the cases in participated in during the later years of the Burger Court, but that shifted to a 56% win-rate under the Rehnquist Court, and then a 70% win-rate with the Roberts Court.

Follow these pro-corporate trends to their logical conclusion, and pretty soon you'll have a Supreme Court that is a wholly owned subsidiary of big business.

Birth control is at risk in today's case, but we also need to worry about a lot more.

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court unleashed a wave of corporate spending to game the political system and drown the voices of middle class families.

And right now, the Supreme Court is considering McCutcheon v. FEC, a case that could mean the end of campaign contribution limits – allowing the big guys to buy even more influence in Washington.

Republicans may prefer a rigged court that gives their corporate friends and their armies of lawyers and lobbyists every advantage. But that's not the job of judges. Judges don't sit on the bench to hand out favors to their political friends.

On days like today, it matters who is sitting on the Supreme Court. It matters that we have a President who appoints fair and impartial judges to our courts, and it matters that we have a Senate who approves them.

We're in this fight because we believe that we don't run this country for corporations – we run it for people.

My new bill to stop the back-room deals

| By

Almost a year ago, during my first banking committee hearing, I asked several federal regulators a simple question: When was the last time you took a Wall Street bank all the way to a trial for breaking the law?

The regulators were stumped. After some hemming and hawing, they said they didn't need to take the biggest banks to trial for breaking the law because settlement agreements were tough enough to enforce the law.  

I was little skeptical.  

But here's the deal -- if the regulatory agencies are so confident that settlements are a good deal for the taxpayers they represent, then you would think they would be willing to publicly disclose the key terms and conditions of those agreements -- hang it right out there so everyone can see what a great job they did on behalf of the American people. But too many times, that isn't what they do.

Instead of making all the terms public, they announce a big "sticker price" for the settlement, then hide the details in fine print or fail to disclose that the company will get a big tax deduction or -- worst of all -- declare all the terms of the deal "confidential."

Senator Tom Coburn and I have introduced the bipartisan Truth in Settlements Act to require accessible, detailed disclosures about these agreements so the public can hold regulators accountable for these deals.

Sign up now to show your support for the Truth in Settlements Act.

These hidden details can make all the difference. When you dig below the surface, settlements that seem tough and fair can end up looking like sweetheart deals.

Last year, federal regulators cut a deal with thirteen mortgage servicers accused of illegal foreclosure activities. The sticker price was $8.5 billion -- which is a great headline.  But a loophole in the way that credits are calculated could end up cutting that value by more than half.

Wells Fargo settled a case involving the sale of fraudulent mortgage securities for a fraction of what JP Morgan had to pay in a similar case -- but since the Wells Fargo agreement is confidential, we have no idea why they got such a better deal.

And the list goes on.  

Our bill takes several steps to fix these problems:
  • It requires federal agencies to explain in written public statements that reference a settlement amount whether any portion of that "sticker price" is potentially tax-deductible or includes the cost of "credits."
  • It requires federal agencies to post basic information about settlements over $1 million on their websites.
  • It requires companies that settle with enforcement agencies to state in their SEC filings whether they have claimed a tax deduction for settlement payments.
  • It requires federal agencies to explain their reasoning publicly any time they deem a settlement confidential.
  • And it requires federal agencies to report annual aggregate statistics on confidential settlements.Increased transparency will help ensure that Congress, citizens and watchdog groups – people like you and me -- can hold regulatory agencies accountable for strong and effective enforcement.  
The job of the regulators is to make certain that no one is above the law no matter how powerful or well-connected they are. The Truth in Settlements Act is one way to keep their feet to the fire to see that promise through.

Sign up now to show your support for the Truth in Settlements Act.

Government agencies work for us, not for the companies they regulate. That means agencies should not be able to cut bad deals and then hide the embarrassing details. The public deserves to know what's going on.

The day the market crashed

| By

We all remember the darkest days of the financial crisis five years ago.

Credit dried up. The stock market cratered. Millions of people lost their jobs. Billions of dollars in retirement savings disappeared.

There were legitimate fears that the dominos of our financial system would never stop falling, and we were heading into another Great Depression.

On many of these fronts, we've made real progress. The Dodd-Frank Act was the strongest financial reform law in three generations. If I had been in the Senate three years ago, I would have voted for it proudly.

Dodd-Frank put in place the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has made serious strides toward leveling the playing field for families and increasing transparency in the marketplace. Thanks to the CFPB, I don't think there will ever again be so many lousy mortgages to threaten our families and our economy.

But no law is perfect -- and our work isn't done.

Most importantly, where are we now on the "Too Big to Fail" problem?" Where are we on making sure the giant financial institutions on Wall Street can't bring down the whole economy with a wild gamble?

After the 2008 crisis, we widely recognized that Too Big to Fail had distorted the marketplace. The largest financial institutions have lower borrowing costs and competitive advantages because of their free, unwritten, government-guaranteed insurance policy.

There was a lot of talk, but look what happened: The four biggest banks are 30% larger today than they were five years ago. Too Big to Fail status is giving the 10 biggest US banks an annual taxpayer subsidy of $83 billion.  
 
So what are we doing about it? More delays. Many say Congress should wait to act further because the agencies still have to issue many of the rules required by Dodd-Frank.

It's true many rules are not yet written, but that's because the agencies have missed more than 60% of Dodd-Frank's deadlines.
 
When Congress sets deadlines and regulators miss most of them, it's time for Congress to step in. Congress is responsible for oversight -- and that's what oversight means.
 
For that reason, I partnered with Senators John McCain, Maria Cantwell, and Angus King to offer up one potential way to address the Too Big to Fail problem:  the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act. It's time to separate boring commercial banking from risky investment banking once again.

There are many other approaches for ending Too Big to Fail, and there is no single answer for preventing future crisis.  

But we should not accept a financial system that allows the biggest banks to emerge from a crisis in record-setting shape while ordinary Americans continue to struggle.  

We should not accept a regulatory system that is so besieged by lobbyists for the big banks that it takes years to deliver rules that are too often watered-down and ineffective.
 
We should never forget the consequences of letting financial behemoths hold our economy hostage. We managed to avoid that grim fate, but our economy still suffered a staggering body-blow.  

There were many powerful interests that that have fought against financial reform, and they will fight future reform efforts too.
 
But David beat Goliath with the passage of Dodd-Frank. David beat Goliath when we fought for and established a strong consumer agency.  

I am confident David can also beat Goliath on Too Big to Fail. Five years after the financial crisis, we just have to pick up the slingshot again.

The 21st Century Glass Steagall Act

| By

When I learned last winter that I would have a seat on the Senate Banking Committee, I was very happy because I knew it would give me the opportunity to ask tough questions and push for some accountability from Wall Street and its regulators.  In the last six months, that’s exactly what I’ve tried to do.

Again and again, I’ve been making a simple point to anyone who will listen: we need to learn from the financial crisis of 2008 and, moving forward, to prevent the kinds of high-risk activities that made a few people rich but nearly destroyed our economy.

Now it’s time to launch the next push. I joined forces with Senators John McCain, Angus King, and Maria Cantwell to introduce the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act of 2013 to reinstate and modernize core banking protections.

Banking needs to return to the basics. Sign up now to show your support for the 21st Century Glass Steagall Act.

Banking should be boring. Savings accounts, checking accounts -- the things that you and I rely on every day -- should be safe from the sort of high-risk activities that broke our economy.

The way our system works, the FDIC insures our traditional banks to keep your money safe. That way when you want to withdraw money from your checking account, you know the money will be there. That’s what keeps our banking system safe and dependable.

But the government should NOT be insuring hedge funds, swaps dealing, and other risky investment banking services. When the same institutions that take huge risks are also the ones that control your savings account, the entire banking system is riskier.

Coming out of the Great Depression, Congress passed the Glass Steagall Act to separate risky investment banking from ordinary commercial banking. And for half a century, the banking system was stable and our middle class grew stronger. As our economy grew, the memory of the regular financial crises we experienced before Glass-Steagall faded away.

But in the 1980s, the federal regulators started reinterpreting the laws to break down the divide between regular banking and Wall Street risk-taking, and in 1999, Congress repealed Glass Steagall altogether. Wall Street had spent 66 years and millions of dollars lobbying for repeal, and, eventually, the big banks won.

Our new 21st Century Glass Steagall Act once again separates traditional banks from riskier financial services. And since banking has become much more complicated since the first bill was written in 1933, we’ve updated the law to include new activities and leave no room for regulatory interpretations that water down the rules.

The bill will give a five year transition period for financial institutions to split their business practices into distinct entities -- shrinking their size, taking an important step toward ending “Too Big to Fail” once and for all, and minimizing the risk of future bailouts.

This is an important bill that will learn from the 2008 crisis and make sure we hold Wall accountable. Show your support for the new 21st Century Glass Steagall Act now.

When people like you and me work together, we can stand up to even the most powerful interests. That’s how we got the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010. That’s how we won our election in 2012. And that’s how we’ll pass the 21st Century Glass Steagall Act.

Don't bite the hand that fed you

| By

AIG made reckless bets that nearly crashed our entire economy.

Beginning in 2008, the government poured billions of your taxpayer dollars into the insurance giant to save it from bankruptcy after it gambled on mortgage-backed securities. And the bailout worked -- earlier this year, AIG reported making billions in profit.

But AIG has a funny way of showing its gratitude. This morning, reports indicated that AIG is considering joining a lawsuit against the federal government because the terms of the bailout weren't generous enough. Can you believe it?

AIG should thank American taxpayers for their help -- not bite the hand that fed them.

The story gets even worse: The government is still bailing out AIG. Right now this profitable insurance giant is getting special tax breaks to give it an advantage and boost its bottom line.

Today, I'm renewing my call for an end to AIG's special tax status to avoid paying taxes -- and I want you to join me. Enough is enough.

Every time AIG files its taxes without paying a dime, it receives another payment in an ongoing, stealth bailout. Those special tax giveaways give AIG a competitive advantage over its competitors -- all while inflating AIG's profit numbers and compensation for its executives.  

Washington shouldn't keep giving special breaks to giant corporations while hard-working middle class families get stuck paying the bill -- especially corporations that sucked up billions of dollars in bailouts after nearly crashing our economy.

Join the call for ending AIG's ongoing bailout and special tax status. They've received enough of our help.

Everyone should have to play by the same rules and pay their fair share -- even giant insurance companies. That's what I believed when I was chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel with oversight on the bank bailout, and that's what I still believe now.

Massachusetts Credit Unions Stand with Elizabeth Warren

| By

Elizabeth Warren - Massachusetts Credit Union League EndorsementLast week, Elizabeth Warren received the endorsement of the Massachusetts Credit Union League at an event held at Worcester Credit Union's Main Street branch. The League is one of the oldest U.S. trades groups still in operation, and this marks the first time they have officially endorsed a candidate for public office.

"Elizabeth Warren has been a strong and vocal proponent of the benefits that credit unions provide to working families across the Commonwealth and around the country," the League's President Dan Egan said at the endorsement event.

Elizabeth has devoted her career to building a credit market that works for American families, for lenders who want to serve those families, and for the economy as a whole. The League's endorsement shows that Elizabeth's vision for credit markets has gained traction from responsible lenders.

"I am honored to receive the endorsement of the Massachusetts Credit Union League," Elizabeth said to the League's Board of Directors. "It is critically important to support credit unions and the hard-working Americans who rely on their services."

At the event, Elizabeth met with Judy Fredenberg, a single mother of four from Fitchburg and a veteran of the Air Force. A few years ago, Judy found herself in a difficult financial situation that resulted in a foreclosure on her home. Fortunately, with the help of her credit union, Judy was able to accomplish her goal of reclaiming, in her words, "the only home my children have ever known."

The credit union endorsement coincided with the one-year anniversary of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opening its doors. In her remarks, Elizabeth emphasized that the mission of every credit union is to serve their members -- the same value that she aimed to incorporate into the new consumer agency's DNA.

"It is our hope and expectation that Elizabeth will ensure that credit unions and their members have an advocate in the Senate," said Egan.

Elizabeth reiterated that she will continue to fight for a level playing field and serve as a voice for Massachusetts credit unions. There are more than 200 credit unions in the Commonwealth with more than 2.5 million members.

I meant what I said

| By

Last August, I stood in a living room in Andover and talked about why our country faced a massive deficit and what it would take to move us forward as a nation.

I'm proud of what I said. I meant every single word of it.

I said, "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own." I praised the people who did get rich. I said, "You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea, God Bless!" But I asked those who make it big to invest in the next generation of kids so they will have a chance too.

Nearly one million people have watched the video from that house party. If you haven't seen the full clip, you can watch it here. And If you've seen it, you can watch it again -- and share it with your friends. Let's show Scott Brown and Mitt Romney that we won't back down:

We don't know who is going to have the next big idea in America.

But we're pretty sure they're going to need employees who can read and write. They're going to need power to keep the lights on and clean water and functioning sewers to keep going. They're going to need roads and bridges to move their goods to market or bring customers to their store. And they're going to need police officers and firefighters to keep their businesses safe.

That's what makes America great. We make the investments together -- to put the conditions in place so that businesses can flourish and create more opportunities for all of us. And it keeps going forward. When we make it, all of us have an obligation to invest in creating the conditions so the next kid can get ahead, and the kid after that, and the kid after that.

I believe in small businesses. My brother started a small business. My daughter started a small business. My aunt started a small business--and that's where I worked when I was a teenager. I've seen up close and personal how hard small business owners work and how much they risk to make their businesses succeed.

Right now, Washington's rigged for the big corporations who can afford armies of lobbyists and lawyers -- not America's small businesses. If Republicans like Scott Brown and Mitt Romney have their way, the system is going to stay rigged for the big guys.

The Republicans have their vision for the future. It says, "I've got mine, the rest of you are on your own."

That's not the American Dream. That's not how we build a future for ourselves and our children. We build a future together.

« Show Older Posts