May 8, 2018

Companies With the Most Complaints in CFPB Database Were Mulvaney Donors

Acting CFPB Director Mulvaney Threatens to Hide Database From the Public, Which Would Conceal Complaints About Former Donors


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Eight of the 10 financial institutions that are the subjects of the most complaints in the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) public database contributed to acting Director Mick Mulvaney while he was in Congress, according to an analysis published today by Public Citizen.

Mulvaney stunned observers when he admitted in April that, as a congressman, he gave preferential treatment to lobbyists who contributed to him. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you,” he said in a speech to the American Bankers Association. In the same speech, Mulvaney suggested that he was considering scuttling a critical consumer resource, the public database of consumer complaints against fraud, abuses and scams by financial institutions that the CFPB has maintained since 2012.

“Is it possible that Mulvaney’s horrible idea of hiding the CFPB’s complaint database is connected to the fact that the most complained about companies contributed to him?” said Michael Tanglis, senior researcher for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and author of the report. “Perhaps if aggrieved consumers had bankrolled his campaign, he wouldn’t be talking about shutting down the complaint database.”

Nineteen out of the top 30 financial institutions with the most complaints in the database contributed a total of $140,500 to Mulvaney through their political action committees (PACs). These institutions have been the subject of more than 520,000 complaints, accounting for more than half of all complaints submitted to the database.

Equifax, which allowed hackers to gain access to the private information of 143 million Americans in 2017 and then waited six weeks to inform the victims, has been the subject of the most complaints – a staggering 83,000. Equifax contributed to Mulvaney. Others that were subjects of the most complaints that also contributed to Mulvaney were Bank of America, Experian, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan and Citibank.

At least five businesses and six industry trade associations lobbied Congress and the CFPB on its consumer complaint database. One of the trade associations that lobbied, the Community Bankers Association, received PAC contributions from 14 of the 30 companies subject to the most complaints. The bankers association PAC also contributed to Mulvaney.

In addition, four businesses and trade associations, three of which contributed to Mulvaney, lobbied on a bill put forth by Mulvaney in 2016 that would have gutted the CFPB database by requiring the agency to investigate each complaint before posting it online.

Equifax, which contributed to Mulvaney and lobbied on the Mulvaney-sponsored bill, faced a shareholder resolution calling for it to be more transparent about its political activities, including on indirect spending that is not covered by disclosure laws. Management at Equifax opposed the measure.

“Equifax expects shareholders and the public to simply trust that the company is soundly managing its political engagement, but following last year’s massive data breach shareholders and consumers deserve increased political transparency from Equifax,” said Rachel Curley, democracy associate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Equifax should worry about keeping the public’s data secret, not its political activities.”

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