Last year, Congress passed Wall Street reform in response to the financial meltdown of 2008. My focus during that debate was to make it far easier for American families to manage their financial affairs without worrying about the tricks and traps that banks may have hidden in the fine print of contracts.
That’s why I introduced a bill with the help of Professor Elizabeth Warren from Harvard to create an independent financial watchdog whose sole purpose would be to look out for the needs of American families trying to use financial services wisely.
That idea ultimately became the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is being established now and will become an independent regulator this July.
For years, every family that tried to buy a house would sign their mortgage documents with a shaky, nervous hand, because no one was overseeing the mortgage brokers and mortgage bankers that often slipped deadly small print into millions of mortgages that were practically guaranteed to eventually fail.
Families with credit cards were hammered by banks that imposed ridiculous interest rate jumps, hidden fees, and cancellations with little warning.
When people bought a car, they could have little confidence that they were being offered a decent loan because no one was working hard to make sure that even the most basic consumer protection rules were being followed in the shadier parts of the auto lending world.
Hard-working Americans setting aside money for retirement wanted to invest in the markets to maximize the money they would have to live on in old age, but because oversight over the Wall Street banks that dominate the markets was so lousy it was tough to know what was a good investment and what wasn’t.
When you put gas in the car, turned on the lights in the house, or bought the groceries you might have paid more than you should have for those basic essentials because the markets where prices were set for oil and electricity and food were subject to so little oversight.
What we had in the run-up to the financial crisis was simply unsustainable.
As borrowers, as investors, as consumers, as taxpayers… the people of Illinois and all Americans deserved much better than what our laws provided.
That’s why Wall Street Reform was so important, and that’s why I was pleased that it was signed into law. I will continue to fight to ensure that the provisions of that law that protect the financial interests of American families are implemented fully and fairly.