Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: NSA of the Financial World

By:  Michael Tennant
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: NSA of the Financial World

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been vacuuming up data on Americans' financial transactions in direct violation of both the Constitution and the law that created the bureau.

While the National Security Agency’s (NSA) unconstitutional spying on Americans’ communications has been getting most of the press lately, another federal agency has been quietly — and illegally — vacuuming up Americans’ financial data: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB has been operating for just under two years but has already managed to exceed its statutory authority, issuing demands for “huge quantities of data regarding individual consumers’ financial transactions on an ongoing, real-time basis,” according to a June 19 letter to CFPB director Richard Cordray from David Hirschmann of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness.

Bloomberg reported in April:

Bureau researchers are assembling data from across the financial landscape, according to a review of government records. Credit-card information from nine banks will be stored and analyzed by Argus Information & Advisory Services LLC, a White Plains, New York-based consultancy that won a $15 million contract for the work, procurement documents show….

As part of a separate industry-wide review, banks are being ordered to provide records of credit-card add-on products including credit monitoring and debt cancellation, according to two people briefed on the matter. And last year, the bureau persuaded banks to submit data on checking-account overdrafts.

Additionally, the CFPB is “buying records from outside the banking industry,” the story continued. It has a contract with an Ireland-based credit-monitoring company for “data on 5 million to 10 million consumers” and another with a Florida-based credit-reporting agency for data on payday loans. The bureau “is also building a mortgage database that will integrate consumer credit information with loan and property records.”

“It’s credible to say that within the next year, CFPB will be the best place for consumer finance data,” the bureau’s assistant director for research, Sendhil Mullainathan, told Bloomberg. “Anybody who wants to do research on consumer finance will want to be there.”

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