What does the new presidency mean for consumer law?
In the wake of the 2016 general election, many people who work in the area of consumer protection wonder what president-elect Trump's impact will be to consumer law. To answer this question, we have to go beyond the traditional conservative versus liberal analysis inherent in politics. president-elect Trump is a pragmatic businessman. His approach to politics is one of seeking real solutions to economic problems. So, I doubt that he will follow the excesses of the left or the right in how he wants his administration, and government in general to address consumer issues. I suspect that his presidency will have little direct impact to consumer law.
With that said, being a pragmatic businessman, I suspect that president-elect Trump will focus on the impacts to business when confronted with consumer related issues. This could result in some dramatic changes to one of the leading consumer protection agencies, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB was created in the wake of the 2008 recession to regulate financial activities that affect consumers. It has the power to regulate mortgages, credit cards, payday loans and private student loans. Ever since its creation, many have made it clear that they believe the CFPB exceeds its authority and has a detrimental impact to business. The specific criticisms of the CFPB include (1) that it is too independent in that it receives its funding from the federal reserve, not congress; (2) that its power is too concentrated in a sole director, instead of a five member committee; and (3) that its regulations have been overly burdensome on community banks. Many in congress have been seeking to reform or eliminate the CFPB. With president-elect Trump already promising on the campaign trail to dismantle the Dodd Frank regulations, those long term opponents to the Dodd Frank Act may find that change is easier accomplished with Trump in the White House.
The most likely changes to the CFPB under President Trump's tenure are replacement of the director model of leadership with a five person committee and a roll back of the regulations that affect small community banks. These two changes are important to many Republicans and are consistent with president-elect Trump's view of the business climate. I suspect that in his view, these changes would further the economic opportunities in America and give business more room to make a profit. There could also be some changes to other regulations that affect banks.
These types of changes to the CFPB will not necessarily directly impact consumers. However, there could be some indirect impact on consumers from a slower bureaucratic process as the CFPB leadership is directed by a five person committee instead of a sole director.