Consumer Protection Fight Looms
Byline: Sean Lengell THE WASHINGTON TIMES
hile the din of the health care debate continues to envelope Capitol Hill, another divisive White House-backed measure looming on the sidelines already has attracted dozens of deep pocketed players determined to strike it down.
A cadre of business and trade groups have joined forces to lobby against the Obama administration's proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA), arguing that restrictions in the measure would handcuff Wall Street and be a serious blow to the nation's economy.
The American Financial Services Association (AFSA), the main trade association for the nation's consumer credit industry that is among those leading the charge, has been meeting regularly with about 30 other trade groups to map out a plan of attack.
We're not opposed to consumer protection .. but we don't think this gets us there, AFSA Executive Vice President Bill Himpler said Existing regulations on the books, had they been enforced, would've taken care of a lot of the problems.
Their efforts, coupled with a separate multimillion dollar public relations and advertising campaign against the CFPA launched last week by the U.S. Chamber
of Commerce, is expected to catapult the issue onto the main legislation stage this autumn.
The chamber supports strong consumer protection, but a massive new bureaucracy with sweeping powers that will deprive consumers of affordability and choice is not the answer, said chamber Senior Vice President David Hirschmann.
The administration says its proposed agency would offer greater consumer protections for such financial products as mortgages, credit cards and loans by establishing simpler and more transparent rules and regulations.
The agency, if enacted by Congress, would consolidate many of the regulatory duties that are spread over several agencies, such as the Federal Reserve, the Office of Thrift Supervision, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
President Obama has promised that the measure would include banning the most unfair practices by financial institutions, such as those ridiculous contracts with pages of fine print that no one can figure out, adding that those things will be a thing of the past.
But banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions argue that tighter controls and more regulations would stifle investments and innovation in the financial world and possibly slow down the flow of capital - a scenario blamed for the recent economic crisis.
Participants in the AFSA's loose coalition have been independently lobbying lawmakers and the administration against the CFPA, and have encouraged their members to do the same.
Mr. Himpler said his organization is working hand in glove with the chamber on the matter, though he is keeping his coalition's strategy and tactics close to the vest.
We're utilizing everything possible, he said. …