WASHINGTON, Oct.26 (Reuters) – Rohit Chopra, the chief consumer finance watchdog, will tell lawmakers on Wednesday his agency wants to minimize foreclosures on distressed US homeowners and make consumer loans more competitive , according to the testimony prepared from his inaugural address.
The US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will also examine the efforts of tech giants or “Big Tech” to better control the flow of money in the economy by providing real-time consumer payment systems and the huge amounts of data they therefore control.
And, it will increase its enforcement on companies that repeatedly break consumer credit laws.
Chopra, a longtime consumer advocate asked by Democratic President Joe Biden to help address lending inequalities, will present an ambitious agenda amid the continuing economic fallout from the coronavirus during his first hearing as CFPB director before members of the House Financial Services Committee at 10:00 a.m. EDT (2:00 p.m. GMT).
“In many parts of the country and in many neighborhoods, conditions remain fragile,” Chopra told the panel, according to the testimony. “Many families continue to struggle to pay their mortgages and rent. Many small businesses face serious challenges making ends meet.
The appearance of Chopra is likely to revitalize the status of the CFPB as a political lightning rod. Republicans have sought to handcuff the agency since its inception, calling it overkill and irresponsible.
Sworn in as a full-time director of the CFPB earlier this month, Chopra has made a name for himself as a strong consumer advocate at the Federal Trade Commission, and previously helped Senator Elizabeth Warren set up the CFPB. after its creation in 2010.
Chopra’s track record as a business critic and his experience at the agency will likely make him a powerful executive, analysts say.
“This hearing should serve as a reminder both of the broad authority of the office and of Director Chopra’s ability to effectively use the office toolbox,” said Isaac Boltansky, director of policy research for financial firm BTIG.
Just weeks after taking office, Chopra made his mark when the CFPB ordered Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc and Facebook Inc to pass on information on how they collect and use consumer payment data.
His testimony said the agency would closely monitor practices that could hamper competition by taking note of the “hurdles that small local financial institutions face when seeking to challenge dominant incumbents, including in big tech.” .
This drive for clarity is part of a growing interest among regulators and lawmakers in the rapid adoption of technology in a variety of financial products, ranging from cryptocurrency to new ‘buy now, pay later’ loan products.
Chopra’s broad agenda at CFPB will also include the review of several major rule relaxations ushered in under Republican leadership, particularly with regard to debt collection and payday loans.
Advocates are eager to see Chopra erase pro-industry changes introduced under Republican leadership and impose tough new rules on the market.
“We hope he explains how he plans to boost CFPB’s efforts to protect consumers from credit report errors, forced arbitrage, overdraft fees and predatory lending,” said Michael Litt, director of US PIRG, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group.
Reporting by Katanga Johnson and Pete Schroeder in Washington, DC; Editing by Megan Davies, Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis
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