Mortgage lenders were an early target of the bureau. It outlawed “no-doc,” or no-documentation, loans and deceptive teaser rates that lured borrowers into thinking they could afford a home loan. The C.F.P.B. also prohibited lenders from paying mortgage brokers to steer borrowers to loans with higher interest rates, a common practice in the lead-up to the subprime meltdown. Some of the big banks also came under scrutiny for pushing their customers to buy expensive, often unnecessary products. In 2014, for instance, the C.F.P.B. ordered Bank of America to return $727 million to customers duped by “deceptive marketing” and unfair billing into paying for relatively worthless credit-card “add-ons” like credit protection in the event of disability or a lost job. A year later, Citibank had to repay customers $700 million for similar transgressions. Since 2011, the agency has returned nearly $12 billion to 29 million consumers.
The C.F.P.B. has also set up a public database for consumer complaints. Other than big-dollar fines, nothing seems to irritate lenders large and small more than the public shaming that comes with showing up on this forum meant for all those customers who have spent countless hours on the phone fighting with giant student-loan servicers or credit-card companies. Businesses have 15 days to respond before a complaint is posted; to date, the C.F.P.B. has published more than 750,000 grievances on its website, along with a business’s response, if one is made public.
Trump’s “forgotten men and women” living on the economic fringes might be the bureau’s greatest beneficiaries. Millions of Americans rely on reloadable, prepaid cards because they’ve bounced too many checks or otherwise have no relationship with a bank. Last fall, the C.F.P.B. finalized regulations that would grant users some of the same protections enjoyed by credit-card customers, including liability limits on lost or stolen cards and easy access to account information. The bureau has also proposed restrictions on debt collectors and payday lenders, who can sometimes legally charge interest rates exceeding what would be 400 percent annually for the two-week loans they provide to the working poor. A trade association representing the payday-lending industry declared that these proposed rules, which would require lenders to either determine a borrower’s ability to repay a loan or set a limit of no more than three two-week loans in a row, would put thousands of lenders out of business.
Cordray signed off on the final prepaid-accounts rule in October — yet that might not have been fast enough. The Congressional Review Act, a vestige of the Gingrich years, gives Congress a brief window to undo certain new federal regulations it does not like. The act was used only once successfully in the 20…