It’s now been almost four years since irresponsibility in certain corners of Wall Street nearly caused our entire economy to collapse. Today, it’s pretty clear to most of us that the rules we once had in place to protect our financial system were old and poorly enforced. They allowed dangerous risk-taking to go unchecked. And when the largest financial institutions did fail, they left hardworking taxpayers holding the bag. And as we dug our way out of the worst recession of our lives, President Obama promised to reform the system so this never happened again.
That’s why, two years ago today, President Obama signed into law Wall Street reform that put in place smarter, tougher, commonsense rules of the road and the strongest consumer protections in history. For example, if you’re a big bank or financial institution, you now have to hold more cash on hand so that if you make a bad decision, you pay for it, not the taxpayers. You’re no longer going to be able to make risky bets with your customers’ deposits. And the new law creates new authorities to claw back outsized compensation from failed CEOs, while finally giving shareholders a say on executive salaries.
We continue to make steady progress on these fronts. Just this month, nine of the largest banks submitted “living wills” that details how they’ll pay for things if they end up failing. These wills will complement the new authorities we’ve put in place that allow regulators to break up and wind down large firms so taxpayers are never again left on the hook for banks’ failures. In June, regulators approved final rules that will force banks to hold more cash on hand for their trading activities and any potential losses.
But Wall Street reform isn’t just about reigning in Wall Street excess. It’s also about protecting Main Street families. For the first time in our history, we now have an independent consumer watchdog with one job: to look out for you. That means making sure you’ve got all the information you need to make important financial decisions. And it means going after anyone – from mortgage brokers to payday lenders to debt collectors – who deals with you dishonestly.
Just this week, that consumer watchdog put in place rules to supervise credit bureaus. This marks the first time in history that these companies will be subject to federal supervision. And working together with other regulators, they ordered Capital One Bank to refund $150 million dollars directly to 2 million customers who were deceived or misled into buying things they didn’t understand or didn’t even want.
The consumer watchdog has also set up a toll free number you can call to make sure you’re getting a fair deal on your mortgage – and to hold banks accountable if you’re not. You can reach them at (855) 411-2372.
They recently put together a new mortgage disclosure form that spells out – in simple terms – how much you’re going to owe on your home. No more hiding things in fine print.
And they’ve set up a new website that makes it easier than ever for you to report on a whole range of financial abuse. If you’re applying for a credit card, opening a bank account, or trying to get a student loan and something doesn’t seem right, go to www.consumerfinance.gov/complaints and let them know. Not only will they bring your complaint directly to the company in question, they’ll give you a tracking number so that you can check back and see exactly what’s being done on your behalf.
That’s what Wall Street reform is all about – looking out for hardworking Americans by making sure everyone plays by the same rules. We’ve come too far to go back to an era of top-down, on-your-own economics. Now is the time to move forward; to strengthen the middle class; and to rebuild an economy where everyone can have the confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead.
Learn more about the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.