By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director
President Obama’s speech at the Ronald Reagan Building yesterday, where he signed the financial reform legislation, hit on all the right points. “This is the strongest consumer financial protection bill in history,” the President stated. He said that firms should compete on “price and quality, not on tricks and traps.” He asked whether anyone had experienced signing a sheaf of papers while closing a mortgage or student loan, not ever sure of all the fees and penalties hidden inside the documents we sign. “That will all change because of this bill.”
Representing NCL at this historic even, I felt the buzz in the room as Senators and Representatives milled about, rubbing elbows with consumer advocates, housing, labor, and civil rights advocates on a momentous occasion. Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) and Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), chairs of the committees in the House and Senate, along with Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren were instrumental in the bill’s passage.
My consumer colleagues are rightfully taking great pride in getting this bill over the finish line and signed into law. NCL joined the group Americans for Financial Reform, the powerful alliance that became a driving force in the bill’s ultimate passage. With only 60 votes in the Senate – so not one to spare to meet the minimum required for Senate passage - and only three Republican Senators joining the Democratic majority to pass the bill, the Senate bill was a squeaker! (The House passed the bill several months ago).
Average Americans will reap the benefits of this bill if it has the impact that we hope for: we will have a consumer financial protection agency whose main focus will be – for the first time – the rights and protections of consumers when dealing with financial transactions. This bill is a victory for the little guy over the big banks and credit card companies, a blow to those who would perpetrate mortgage fraud and impose outrageous fees and penalties on unsuspecting consumers. A new day has dawned for financial reform and consumers have cause, at last, to celebrate.