Elizabeth Warren's CFPB slammed by Native American leaders over racial bias

Sometimes the irony meter just shoots straight past the red line and fractures the glass.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been making headlines pretty much since its inception, frequently for all the wrong reasons. The brainchild of Senator Elizabeth Warren, the agency was supposed to be looking out for the little guy, stopping the fat cats from abusing the poor and powerless, and generally leveling the playing field. But one group of frequently impoverished and underrepresented people seems to think that guardians are acting pretty much as poorly as the power brokers they were assigned to monitor.


Sherry Treppa is the councilwoman for the Indian Nation, Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake in California and she recently had a bone to pick with the CFPB. The Bureau is looking at new payday loan regulations which she claims will undermine a key portion of the tribe’s business without taking into consideration the consumer protections they already have in place. (Law 360, subscription required for full article.)

A Native American tribal leader assailed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday for its proposed regulation of so-called payday lenders, saying the agency has failed to consult with tribes as it prepares to issue a new federal rule on the industry.

During a hearing of the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake Chairwoman Sherry Treppa said the CFPB’s expected new rule on short-term, small-dollar lending may disregard many tribes’ strict frameworks for regulating their lending businesses and protecting consumers.

“I remain concerned that the CFPB is developing its proposed action in a vacuum without consulting with tribes to learn about the innumerable tools that we have developed to ensure that we conduct business in a manner that is fair, responsible, compliant and benefits our tribal members and the American consumer,” Treppa said at the hearing.

Treppa said that her tribe had transformed its economy and governmental services through its online short-term lending business — progress the CFPB’s rule could undermine, she said.

“The CFPB’s refusal to work with tribes in a government-to-government manner is not consistent with the federal government’s trust responsibility to tribal governments, nor does it respect the inherent sovereignty of Indian tribes,” Treppa said.


I’ll start out here by saying that most of these payday lenders, in my opinion, are engaged in usury of the worst sort and tend to prey on uninformed people facing financial hardship, often to their detriment. Perhaps this Indian nation is different, though. We don’t have enough details to say. But the fact that they are generally entitled to be dealt with on a government to government basis out of respect for their First Nation status (or the US equivalent thereof) complicates the question considerably. When you mix in the CFPB founder’s own struggles with “self-identifying” as a Native American herself, the conflict turns into comedy gold.

But this isn’t the first time that the Bureau has run into problems over discrimination. Last summer their own civil rights officer came forward and said their their internal practices made a mockery of equal rights protection. (American Banker)

A senior civil rights official at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is poised to tell Congress Thursday that the agency is mishandling internal employee complaints of discrimination and has repeatedly retaliated against staff who spoke out.

Florine Williams, a senior equal employment specialist at the CFPB’s Office of Civil Rights, is scheduled to testify before the House Financial Services oversight and investigations subcommittee as one of two “whistleblowers” lawmakers have called to probe accusations of discrimination at the agency.


The agency also had vast cost overruns when building their headquarters when they were first approved, further making a joke of the idea of consumer financial protection, since you’d think that the taxpayers would be the largest group of people in need of some help guarding against the abuse of their money. This is one group that’s looking more and more like The Weed Agency every year, but now that they’ve been summoned into existence, they are here forever it seems.

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