Enough with Jeb Hensarling’s B.S. About CFPB Being “Asleep at the Wheel” on Wells Fargo

Consumer Protection Foe in Desperate Need of This Reality Check

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, at an event hosted by POLITICO, House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Wall Street) again claimed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) “was asleep at the wheel” when Wells Fargo opened millions of fake accounts. In short, that is complete bullshit. Before we dig into Hensarling’s claims with a reality check, here’s some important context:

In 2016, the CFPB levied a $185 million fine on Wells Fargo, and mandated refunds for their wronged customers, for opening “as many as 2 million accounts that bank customers never wanted,” which the CFPB and others called a ‘major breach of trust’ and ‘outrageous.’” The bank claimed it fired 5,300 employees over involvement in the issue, agreed to apologize to customers, and paid $100 million to the CFPB, then “the largest fine the federal agency [had] ever imposed.” The settlements “put to rest a lawsuit filed” by Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer.

The CFPB and Wells Fargo: Rhetoric vs. Reality

RHETORIC: Hensarling Says the CFPB “‘Was Asleep at the Wheel’” on the Wells Fargo Fake Accounts Issue.

REALITY: The CFPB’s Collaboration with the Los Angeles City Attorney Allowed for “Nationwide Relief for Wells Customers.”

REALITY: The CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database Was Mined by the Los Angeles City Attorney in Advance of Their Action Against Wells Fargo and “Helped Spur [the CFPB’s] Investigation and Exposure of the Bank’s Sham Accounts.”

REALITY: Hensarling’s Motivation to Criticize the CFPB’s Wells Effort Appears to Be Political, Not Based on Policy.

  • Despite reports that the OCC was aware Wells Fargo’s accounts issue in 2010 – before the CFPB even existed – Jeb Hensarling’s House Financial Services Committee “never initiated a hearing to grill the OCC” about the scandal. [Gary Rivlin and Susan Antilla, “No Protection for Protectors,” The Intercept, 11/18/17]

Jeb Hensarling: Wells Fargo’s Friend in Congress

Hensarling Has Received $63,750 in Campaign Contributions from Wells Fargo’s PAC and Their Employees over the Course of His Career.

Hensarling Was Asleep at the Wheel on Wells Fargo Accountability.

Hensarling’s Financial CHOICE Act Would Benefit Wells Fargo And Eliminate Safeguards like the CFPB’s Complaint Database that Helped Identify the Bank’s Fraud 

  • Wells Fargo’s own presentation noted that under the Financial CHOICE Act, “CFPB’s enforcement authority would be severely restricted, including the removal of the CFPB’s authority to bring enforcement actions related to ‘unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices'” under provisions contained in the CHOICE Act 2.0. [2017 Financial Institutions Balance Sheet Strategy Conference, Wells Fargo, accessed 05/17/18]

Tax Cuts Supported by Hensarling Made it Easy for Wells Fargo to Afford Fines and Judgments Resulting from Its Fraud

  • Wells Fargo Has Been Fined Just Over $1 Billion But Received Nearly $4 Billion in Tax Cuts. Recent CFPB and OCC fines against Wells Fargo for a variety of actions total less than one third of the value of the tax cuts Wells Fargo received as a result of the Republican tax bill. Just this year, Wells Fargo paid a $1 billion fine to the OCC and CFPB, yet received $3.7 billion in tax cuts from the Republican Tax Bill. In fact, Wells Fargo’s tax cut was more than Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, PNC Financial Services, and UBS. [Emily Stewart, “Wells Fargo just got fined $1 billion. Republicans cut its taxes by $3.7 billion.,Vox, 04/21/18]

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