Consumer Protection

Consumer Protection

Research

Todd Zywicki | Sep 29, 2015
A new paper for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University reviews the law and economics of consumer debt collection and its regulation and concludes that the CFPB should consider all the potential consequences of new regulation—both intended and unintended—to ensure that it will benefit consumers.
Jason Scott Johnston , Todd Zywicki | Aug 03, 2015
In a new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, law professors Jason Scott Johnston and Todd Zywicki provide an overview and critique of the CFPB’s report. The study criticizes the report using primarily evidence supplied by the report itself. The CFPB’s findings show that arbitration is relatively fair and successful at resolving a range of disputes between consumers and providers of consumer financial products, and that regulatory efforts to limit the use of arbitration will likely leave consumers worse off.
Adam C. Smith, Todd Zywicki | Mar 11, 2014
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is one of the most powerful and least accountable regulatory agencies in American history. Immune from budgetary oversight by Congress and headed by a single director whom the president cannot remove except under special circumstances, the agency wields unconstrained, vaguely defined powers to regulate virtually every consumer and small business credit product in America (Zywicki 2013a). In part, the CFPB has justified its ongoing intervention into financial credit markets based on a prior belief in the inability of consumers to competently weigh their decisions. This belief is founded on research conducted in the area of behavioral economics, which shows that people are prone to a variety of errors in their decision-making.
James K. Glassman, J. W. Verret | Apr 16, 2013
A rule enacted by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2003 required institutions to adopt and disclose policies for proxy voting that were intended to minimize conflicts between the institutions’ interests and those of their shareholders. An SEC staff interpretation of that rule led to a result almost the opposite of the ruling’s intent. Institutions could easily protect themselves from legal liability by shifting responsibility to proxy advisory firms, which acquired increasing power over corporate governance, to the detriment of shareholders.
Todd Zywicki | Jan 15, 2013
This paper describes the current economic and regulatory landscape for prepaid cards. The market appears to be robustly competitive, as recent years have seen declining costs and increasing functionality as well as entry of major players such as American Express and several large banks. Nor is there any evidence that consumers systematically err in the cards that they choose. Absent a demonstrable competitive market failure or systematic consumer abuse, prescriptive regulation of the terms and substance of prepaid cards would likely have unintended consequences that would exceed the benefits to consumers. On the other hand, there are some regulations that might be enacted that could promote competition and consumer welfare in this rapidly evolving market.
Todd Zywicki, Robert Sarvis | Jan 14, 2013
Government regulators proposing restrictions on specific forms of consumer credit all too often ignore the reality of how and why consumers use credit. They also ignore lenders’ legitimate reasons for pricing their services as they do; consumers’ legitimate reasons for choosing the financing options they do; the risks consumers face when credit offerings are made unavailable to them; and the many consumers who use the particular forms of consumer credit responsibly and effectively.

Testimony & Comments

Jason Scott Johnston , Todd Zywicki, Michael Wilt | Aug 22, 2016
The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (the Bureau) proposes a rule to prohibit mandatory arbitration agreements in consumer financial-product or service contracts. The Bureau bases its proposed rulemaking on findings from its 2015 study, which was mandated by Congress under Section 1028(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act. In a new public interest comment for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, University of Virginia law professor Jason S. Johnston, George Mason University law professor Todd J. Zywicki, and Mercatus Center senior policy writer Michael P. Wilt examine the Bureau’s proposed rule and findings, and they demonstrate that the Bureau’s data and analysis are often inconsistent, inadequate, and flawed. Because of flaws in the methodology and data, the Bureau’s 2015 study should not be used as the basis for any regulatory proposal to limit the use of consumer arbitration. Furthermore, regulatory efforts to limit the use of arbitration will likely leave consumers worse off. A deeper analysis of the Bureau’s data shows that arbitration is, in reality, relatively fair and successful at resolving a range of disputes between consumers and providers of consumer financial products.
Thomas W. Miller, Jr. | Feb 11, 2016
Conversations about consumer credit often reflect utopian visions of the world. Many people imagine that a few tweaks to regulations can ensure that everyone has the money needed to feed, clothe, and shelter the family. According to this logic, if households need to borrow money, lenders will treat them fairly, charge little, and always be repaid. But no matter how hard we all try, a well-crafted regulatory framework cannot bring us this utopia. Deliberate, empirically informed regulators, however, can do much to preserve and expand consumers’ options along the nonbank-supplied small-dollar loan landscape.
J. W. Verret | Sep 30, 2015
The explosive growth in federally backed loan and guaranty programs has been an appropriate focus of congressional oversight in recent years. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimates the federal government supports over $3 trillion in loans and guarantees. Those loans and guarantees are often shrouded by indirect government support and unreasonable assumptions in government accounting practices. I submit that the Securities Investor Protection Corporation’s (SIPC) provision of securities custody insurance should be an appropriate part of that conversation.
Hester Peirce | Jun 11, 2015
Financial regulation should consist of clear, consistently enforced rules within which customers and financial institutions can freely interact. A well-functioning market enables people who need financing to obtain it efficiently and at a competitive price. Market forces reward financial companies that serve consumers well and discipline firms that fail to provide products and services in a form and at a price that consumers want.
Stephen Matteo Miller | Mar 12, 2015
The Bureau should employ its statutory authority to make exceptions to suspend the credit card database program so that it can inform Congress that the costs of such programs outweigh the benefits.
Patrick McLaughlin, Gary D. Leff | Sep 22, 2014
The proposed rule requires sellers of travel to offer information and disclosures in a uniform set of ways, despite a lack of evidence suggesting the specific information contemplated by the proposed rule represents the particular set of facts that each consumer needs to understand for every trip.

Expert Commentary

Jun 01, 2016

Competition guarantees that the borrowers will receive loans at the lowest possible cost and highest possible customer service—in both large- and small-dollar loan markets.
May 02, 2016

Using RICO to take down lenders will stifle market innovation and competition.
By Todd Zywicki, Jason Johnston |
Dec 09, 2015

Early in October, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unleashed its latest effort to remake the American consumer credit system. This time, the bureau is targeting the provisions in consumer credit contracts that require disputes to be handled through arbitration rather than class action lawsuits. Our recent Mercatus Center working paper suggests that-despite the consumer protection rhetoric-class action lawyers, not consumers, will benefit from the bureau's anti-arbitration efforts.
Nov 18, 2015

While we can be confident that new regulations for the debt collection industry are on the way, it's not yet clear whether those regulations will help or harm consumers. The result is largely dependent upon the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which has the opportunity to either help facilitate open, constructive communication between consumers and debt collection firms, or to saddle the industry and consumers with hasty regulations that result in unintended consequences.
Oct 22, 2015

Combating bad ideas would be much easier if they were all backed by ill intent. More often than not, however, the opposite is true, and the worst government policies are enacted with the intention to help. Such is apparently the case with the aggressive campaign by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to eliminate the payday lending industry.
By Thomas W. Miller, Jr., Thomas A. Durkin |
Oct 13, 2015

Although life insurance agents and lenders provide socially important products, few people get lively when thinking about them. Fewer still get excited about lenders who also sell life insurance on loans. While few people have even heard of an important insurance product known as credit insurance, many borrowers rely on this product for peace of mind. What is credit insurance? Borrowers sometimes worry that they will not be able to pay back their loan due to unforeseen events. The market, of course, provides a way to calm these anxious borrowers by allowing them to add a product to their loan: credit insurance.

Charts

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act has been generally associated with an explosion in federal financial regulatory restrictions. RegData permits us to specifically examine which agencies produced regulatory restrictions associated with the law. Dodd-Frank was associated with a substantial increase in the Federal Reserve’s role as a regulator, as its number of regulations jumped 32 percent in the 4 years since the passage of the legislation.

Experts

Podcasts

| May 02, 2012
On WOR Radio's The John Gambling Show, J.W. Verret explains that, despite rhetoric about helping the little guy, Dodd-Frank actually benefits the wealthiest Americans.

Recent Events

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University continues its “Future of Finance” series of events with a timely event focused on the regulation of consumer credit products.

Media Clippings

Todd Zywicki | Oct 20, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.
Todd Zywicki | Jul 24, 2013
The commission’s “decision today is an unqualified disaster for consumers,” said Todd J. Zywicki, a professor at George Mason University School of Law.
Veronique de Rugy | Apr 26, 2012
Veronique de Rugy calls out cronyists.
Steven Horwitz | Apr 23, 2012
Steven Horowitz applies the parable of the broken traffic lights to the mortgage lending crisis.
| Mar 14, 2012
Antony Sanders says the results of the financial stress tests are a lot less scary than they seem.
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