Late Tuesday evening, the U.S. Senate voted to repeal an Obama-era rule that provided consumer protections against banks and credit card companies by preventing them from using forced settlements to resolve disputes with customers.
The vote on the Senate floor was 50-50, with The Hill reporting that Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Kennedy of Louisiana voted with Democrats to keep the rule in place. But it was not enough. Vice President Mike Pence took over the presiding officer’s chair and cast his tie-breaking vote, which brought the vote total to 51-50 in favor of the resolution of disapproval.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau put a rule in place in July that prevented banks and credit card companies from adding a clause to their customer contracts to prevent customers from filing class-action lawsuits and instead require them to resolve any disputes through third-party arbitration.
To get rid of the rule, Republicans used the Congressional Review Act, which gives them 60 legislative days to repeal an executive-branch rule after it is finalized. The House had already passed its repeal resolution in July.
On Monday the Treasury Department released an analysis of the rule that argued keeping it in place would result in 3,000 more class-action lawsuits being filed over the next five years, imposing more than $500 million in legal-defense fees and giving $330 million to plaintiffs’ attorneys.
The CFPB countered Treasury’s argument, saying that it was “solidly refuted in the final rule.”
“Banks, credit unions and other companies file class-action lawsuits to pursue justice when they are harmed as a group, and our rule restores consumers’ right to do the same,” the bureau said.
“Our rigorous analysis of the costs and benefits of the rule found that mandatory arbitration clauses allow companies to avoid accountability for breaking the law and cost consumers billions of dollars by blocking group lawsuits,” the CFPB added.
The bureau reported that over the past five years, 34 million consumers received $1 billion in payments through lawsuits. That was in comparison with the $360,000 that arbitrators awarded to 78 consumers in two years.
The banks just got over, big time, and Congress helped them do it.