In Proverbs 31:9, the Bible encourages leaders to “speak up and judge fairly” and “defend the rights of the poor and needy.” And now, our Senators in Washington have been given an opportunity to do just that and restore Americans’ rights.
It wouldn’t take a grand act, but it would require them to hold firm and do the righteous thing in standing with everyday Louisianans in support of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule that empowers consumers against rampant corporate deception and greed by limiting the abusive practice of forced arbitration.
Along with religious leaders from across the country, I have advocated for our congregations and worked to let justice and good prevail. For too long, we have seen banks, pay day lenders, and credit card companies get away with scamming our church members, the poor, and older Americans. Through widespread schemes laced with fraud and deception, these multibillion dollar companies have stopped at nothing to unjustly take hard earned money from working families and those struggling to make ends meet.
Last month, the CFPB finalized a rule that limits the banking industry’s use of oppressive, hidden forced arbitration clauses in banking and credit contracts that allow them to prey on trusting Louisianans. These clauses force consumers to forfeit their rights, often unknowingly, leaving them to fight for justice in a forced arbitration process that is secret and rigged because it is controlled by the banks.
It’s immoral that today when consumers discover they have been cheated by their banks, they also learn that they signed one of these forced arbitration clauses when they applied for a credit card, bank account, student loan, or other product. And despite the Big Banks’ claim that forced arbitration clauses somehow protect consumers, these clauses do nothing but strip citizens’ Seventh Amendment rights by denying them the choice to hold law-breaking banks accountable in court.
Too often, good people are losing out to big banks in forced arbitration because they are being denied an open and honest path to justice in a system that is so heavily stacked against them. The forced arbitration process makes it impossible for consumers to join with others to reclaim what’s been taken by dishonest banks. The process has also allowed banks to masterfully keep their indiscretions hidden from public light, so they can continue to cheat their consumers through systemic schemes and frauds. These practices must be stopped.
The CFPB rule would no longer let banks hide their fraudulent business practices behind forced arbitration. Under the rule, consumers’ rights to a fair and transparent path to justice would be restored, and they would be returned the ability to join with others to demand banks are held accountable.
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation to block this important rule from taking effect, and it’s my understanding that the Senate is threatening to do the same. I remind our Senators that our sacred texts require us to speak up when the poor are taken advantage of through unscrupulous dealings and policies that have a negative impact on communities and families. The American people need someone to speak up for them now in Washington and defend their rights to ensure justice is served fairly.
There is no justification – moral or otherwise – to prevent the CFPB from restoring the rights of consumers and allowing this rule to move forward. Yet, too many Senators are refusing to stand for fairness and justice. They instead continue to echo the rationalizations and half-truths of the Big Banks, their Wall Street lawyers, and their Washington lobbyists.
On behalf of the faith community, I urge our Louisiana Senators to fend off misguided pressure to block the CFPB’s rule and do what our representatives in the House wouldn’t: speak up and defend the rights of Louisianans and the American people. Louisianans and my congregation need honorable leadership to make consumer empowerment and the protection of our rights more important than the wishes of Wall Street.
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