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Rep. Jeb Hensarling Calls Consumer Financial Protection Bureau A 'Rogue Agency'


Here's the case made by some House Republicans who focus on banking. They contend they will protect bank consumers by terminating the agency meant to protect bank consumers. Republicans have criticized the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ever since a Democratic Congress created it. The independent agency was set up after the financial crisis, a reaction to banks that took advantage of customers. In a brief interview, Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling made his case that the bureau isn't working.

You have this public-relations problem right from the name - don't you? - because consumer financial protection would sound great to a lot of people. What's wrong with it?

JEB HENSARLING: Somebody has to protect consumers, not just from Wall Street but protect them from Washington as well. And the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has hurt consumers. Free checking at banks has been cut in half. Banking fees have gone up. Working people are finding it more difficult to get mortgages.

The bottom line is the best consumer protection are competitive, innovative markets that are transparent. Now, they need to be vigorously policed for force and fraud, but the agencies that do that need to be accountable. And instead, we've had this agency ruled totally unaccountable. It is a rogue agency.

INSKEEP: Congressman, you say rogue agency. Let's follow up on some of this. What makes it unconstitutional?

HENSARLING: It is unaccountable to the president. It is unaccountable to Congress. It is unaccountable to the courts.

INSKEEP: Because it is part of the Federal Reserve.

HENSARLING: It has no accountability to the Federal Reserve. Ask Janet Yellen, the chair. They create their own funding stream. They can designate their own salaries. In all the time I've been in government, I've never seen an agency that's had more accusations of racial discrimination. I don't know why anybody would defend this bureau.

INSKEEP: You have made the argument there, Congressman, that regulation in this case is limiting the amount of services and the amount of credit available to people. But, of course, the flipside of this comes from the bureau itself, which says that it has turned back more than $11 billion to consumers who were harmed. A lot of people will remember the Wells Fargo case in which people at the bank were creating fake checking accounts in order to get commissions for themselves. And the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau investigated it.

HENSARLING: Oh, there was fraud that took place at Wells. But what happened is they were asleep at the switch. They had people who were inspecting Wells, and they didn't do anything about it. It came out of the LA city attorney's office and the LA Times. The main thing is they're there to enforce our consumer laws. And I can't say they've necessarily done a good job of that. But they're not to make them up. That is the work of Congress. And we need an effective agency to enforce those but to also enforce them with due process.

INSKEEP: You've compared this with Obamacare - that you find very wrong, constructed the wrong way. Is this going to be like Obamacare, though, in that it is very hard to replace it with something that does the same thing?

HENSARLING: Well, number one, we have a Federal Trade Commission that is in charge of enforcing many of our consumer protection laws. We have bank supervisors at the Office of the Comptroller of Currency. They could do it. In addition, we could have consumer protection perhaps focused in one particular agency. But it's an agency that needs to enforce our laws, not make up the laws.

No one person in America, particularly an unelected person, should have the power to choose our credit cards for us, to choose our mortgages for us. That is offensive, and that needs to end. It is not part of due process. It is not part of checks and balances. And the history of this agency is that they have hurt consumers because they're hurting competitive markets and economic choice.

INSKEEP: Chairman Hensarling, thanks very much.

HENSARLING: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Congressman Jeb Hensarling of Texas is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Now, later this afternoon on All Things Considered, we report on the background of Sebastian Gorka, an adviser to President Trump on national security, occasional guest on this program. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.