President Trump and the regulators he appointed are taking a far less aggressive approach to consumer protection than their predecessors, delaying key regulations and imposing fewer penalties against financial institutions and other corporations accused of wrongdoing, according to a Washington Post review of available data and interviews with consumer advocates and government officials.
At the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for example, enforcement actions have dropped from an average of three-to-five each month during the past four years down to zero since a Trump appointee took charge of the agency in late November.
The Labor Department has delayed full implementation of a rule requiring financial advisers to act in their clients’ best interest.
And the Department of Education has withdrawn Obama-era regulations meant to strengthen protections for student borrowers.
The new approach — welcomed by banks and business leaders — has alarmed consumer advocates who fear it gives an advantage to Wall Street and other powerful industries while leaving ordinary Americans more susceptible to fraud, discrimination and predatory lending.
“There hasn’t been a lot that has been methodical about this presidency, but I do think Trump is systematically dismantling consumer protections,” said Mark Totten, a Michigan State University law professor who studies the enforcement of consumer protection laws and a 2014 Democratic candidate for Michigan attorney general.
The new direction affects agencies that touch nearly every aspect of consumer life, advocates say — from how Americans access credit and car loans to the safety of cribs and cellphones.
The regulatory pullback illustrates a philosophical difference over how best to protect consumers. Barack Obama, in response to the financial crisis that rocked the first year of his presidency, attempted to rein in Wall Street and big banks with tighter regulation of the banking system. He wielded his executive power to force change in other industries, as well.
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