Has anyone ever heard of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB for short)?
I know I never had…until today, Friday the 13th for all my superstitious followers out there. This new government agency was set up under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act). However, in January of 2012, President Barack Obama appointed its first Director, and it was off and running. In one year alone, the agency has data-mined 95% of all mortgage transactions in the United States, along with 80% of all credit card transactions in the United States…in one year!
“Officially” according to the agency’s website, this agency claims to educate consumers against abusive financial practices. The second thing the CFPB claims to do is to enforce the federal consumer financial laws. Once again, it is completely unclear what laws they are enforcing and for what consumers, however it sounds good for those people who need help with financial law. As you read on, it sounds like they are breaking more laws than enforcing existing laws.
Finally, what the CFPB’s website claims to do is: “Gather and analyze available information to better understand consumers, financial services providers, and consumer financial markets.” And this is where the rub comes in. Because, even though the law specifically states that the CFPB is barred from collecting personally identifiable financial information on consumers and prohibits it from regulating practicing attorneys, that is exactly what the agency does. In essence, it is like the National Security Agency (NSA), that has been getting so much attention these days due to a “rogue” agent who let the world know about our government is spying not only on its own citizens of the United States, however it spies on just about everyone in the whole wide world.
While the NSA concentrates on collecting data from phone calls, emails and web sites such as Facebook, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is yet another Big Brother agency that collects data on approximately 95% of all mortgage transactions in the United States. What they do with this data is anyone guess, however if you buy, own or plan to buy a piece of land or a home, these folks will be tracking you. “This is one step closer to a Big Brother form of government where they know everything about us,” said Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wisconsin recently.
What is more frightening is that today we learned that this very same agency that was “designed to educate the consumers” is now mining credit card transactions as well. They currently claim to collect data on four out of every five U.S. consumer credit card transactions this year — up to 42 billion transactions — through a controversial data-mining program, according to documents obtained by the Washington Examiner.
This educational and “protection” government agency has a strategic planning document for fiscal years 2013-17 which describes the “markets monitoring” program through which officials aim to monitor 80 percent of all credit card transactions in 2013. I am sorry; however why does the government want to know how much gas I buy each month or what books I purchase on Amazon? I mean 42 billion credit card transactions is a lot of data no matter how you slice it. What is our government hoping to gain by spending who knows what on another new government agency is beyond the scope of reality? I just know that these are scary numbers. The who, what, where and why this entire data-mining of credit cards even takes place is still unknown, and unexplained.
This past Wednesday (September 11th) the House Financial Services Committee chaired by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, asked this very question to the CFPB Director Richard Cordray. Mr. Cordray not only defended the data-mining practice but admitted that his agency is monitoring credit card usage at 110 banks, including Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Capital One, Discover and American Express.
Directory Cordray basically said to me, ‘We needed to do this. This was something we thought we ought to do.’ He never said, ‘OK, it probably violates two provisions of the law,’ a very clear ‘Do not do this,’ ” Rep. Spencer Bachus, another member of the committee said.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 1.16 billion consumer credit cards were in use in 2012 for an estimated 52.6 billion transactions. If the CFPB officials reach their stated “performance goal,” they would collect data on 42 billion transactions made with 933 million credit cards used by American consumers in 2013 alone!
So with the data-mining of 95% of all mortgages in the United States and 80% of all credit card transaction in 2013, it is just a matter of time before this government agency reaches its goal of 100% of all financial transactions of everyone living in the United States via credit cards and mortgages in the years to come?
Again, what I do not get is what our government wants to do with all this data-mining or “plans” to do with all this information. Not only that, I would be willing to guess that less than 10% of all Americans even realize this agency even exists, let alone what they do with all of this data. I guess we are going to have to have another “rogue” agent from the inside “break out” and eventually tell us.
In the meantime, just know that our government more than likely knows that you bought a new pair of shoes at Pay Less last week, not to mention the beautiful vase you bought for a friends newly married couple for their wedding gift. Uncle Sam truly is “looking out, or should I say looking at you!”
What a country!