Rep. Patrick McHenry
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) speaks during the House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. on December 8, 2021.
(Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

CFPB Has Returned $240 Million to Constituents of GOP Lawmakers Attacking Agency

"These lawmakers," said one advocate, "should answer to their constituents why they'd rather represent their industry donors at the expense of everyday families."

Residents of U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry's home state of North Carolina won back more than $24 million from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Civil Penalty Fund between 2012 and 2022—but that hasn't stopped the Republican lawmaker from spearheading an effort to significantly weaken the agency.

Government watchdog Accountable.US on Wednesday released a report detailing the money that the CFPB's Civil Penalty Fund, which compensates victims of misconduct by financial companies, has returned to the constituents of Republican lawmakers who are intent on attacking the agency—as well as the donations those same politicians have taken from the industry the CFPB regulates.

"Republicans in Congress should be celebrating the fact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has recouped billions of dollars for families who've been ripped off by bad actors in the financial industry," said Liz Zelnick, director of Accountable.US' Economic Security & Corporate Power program. "Instead, many Republicans are rooting for efforts to defund and defang the nation's top consumer advocate."

The group's report shows that in 10 states including North Carolina, Arizona, South Carolina, and Michigan, constituents have been awarded compensation totaling more than $240 million from the CFPB's fund.

In North Carolina, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis has joined McHenry in attacking the CFPB, accusing the bureau of "undertaking a name-and-shame campaign to coerce banks who were following the established prudential standards for the crime of listening to their previous federal regulators."

Judging from his attacks on the CFPB, said Accountable.US, Tillis "would prefer if tens of thousands of North Carolinians were vulnerable to scams from the likes of predatory lenders and greedy big banks."

Both lawmakers were among those who signed an amicus brief in support of a federal lawsuit brought by the Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA), a group that represents the predatory payday lending industry, which aims to strike down the bureau's funding structure through the Federal Reserve. The group and a number of Republicans have claimed the CFPB should be funded through appropriations passed by Congress.

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case when it reconvenes in October.

Accountable.US found that in the 10 states in its report, the Republicans who signed the amicus brief have received more than $51 million from people and political action committees affiliated with financial companies regulated by the CFPB.

McHenry has taken more than $5.4 million from the industry, while Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has received more than $4.8 million. Scott has denounced the bureau as "an agency that lacks transparency and seeks to operate beyond its jurisdiction."

Other lawmakers featured in the group's report include Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), who has taken more than $315,000 from the industry and has called the CFPB a "rogue organization" that "ought to be zeroed out"; Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.), who has repeatedly proposed legislation to gut the agency and has taken $3.9 million from the industry; and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who told a group of lobbyists in 2017 that he would overturn a CFPB rule preventing bans on class-action lawsuits against Wall Street companies. McConnell has taken more than $9.2 million from the industry during his career.

"The CFPB helped put money back into the pockets of over 27,000 Kentuckians," said Accountable.US, "but McConnell would rather represent his industry donors in Senate at their expense."

The agency has returned nearly $20 million to Michigan residents, $45.7 million to New Yorkers, and $28.2 million to Pennsylvanians—but Republican lawmakers who represent those states have also signed the amicus brief in the CFSA case and have collectively taken millions of dollars from the industry the CFPB is tasked with regulating.

"The industry's goal," said Accountable.US, is to "leave everyday families vulnerable to tricks, debt traps, discrimination, and outright scams from the likes of predatory lenders and greedy big banks."

The group's report suggested that goal is shared by many GOP lawmakers.

"These lawmakers," said Zelnick, "should answer to their constituents why they'd rather represent their industry donors at the expense of everyday families."

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