Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
The Senate debate of the “Wall Street Reform Bill” (S. 3217) has started. Unfortunately, despite the length of this legislation, a major consumer safeguard is absent.
The single most important measure we can advance to protect consumers and taxpayers is embodied in an amendment drafted by Senator Charles Schumer. Senator Schumer’s amendment provides a facility to establish an independent non-governmental nonprofit Financial Consumers’ Association (FCA). FCA has broad support from leading consumer organizations.
Given the powerful influence of the financial industry over the legislative and regulatory processes, it is likely that consumers will continue to be short-changed unless Congress facilitates the creation of an independent, non-governmental organization to monitor the actions of financial corporations. A Financial Consumers’ Association would be voluntarily supported by membership dues. The members would elect a board of directors that could hire researchers, organizers, accountants and lawyers.
A Financial Consumers’ Associations could:
1. Represent consumer interests before regulatory agencies, legislative bodies, and the courts, and in negotiations with financial service providers;
2. Develop data that would provide consumers with the information they need to deal with financial institutions and provide a means of comparing the costs of financial services and products;
3. Address common consumer complaints regarding financial services;
4. Evaluate the performance of mortgage lenders;
5. Monitor the availability of financial services to less affluent and minority borrowers;
6. Advocate policies that will ensure reasonable access to credit for all consumers; and
7. Provide policymakers, consumers, workers, shareholders, taxpayers and the news media with timely information on the effects of financial industry and government initiatives.
It is time to give the millions of consumers and taxpayers who bear the brunt of Wall Street’s recklessness, avarice and crimes a chance to band together to watchdog the financial industry and the financial regulators.
For more information visit: http://wallstreetwatch.org