On February 6, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) under President Donald Trump announced a proposal to weaken an Obama-era rule designed to protect consumers from predatory payday lenders. Despite this move’s implications for consumers, network and cable news almost entirely ignored the rule change.
The Obama-era rule, which had set August 19, 2019, as a deadline for the payday lenders to start complying with its provisions, “was the first significant federal effort to regulate payday lenders and took more than five years to develop.” Part of its provisions would require payday lenders to verify potential borrowers' income and debts when deciding whether they could afford a high-interest loan, thus protecting vulnerable consumers from predatory lenders. Advocates of these provisions argue that “ability-to-repay requirements protect borrowers from getting caught in loans with exorbitant interest rates,” which can exceed 300 percent.
The latest proposal by the CFPB would eliminate the ability-to-repay requirements and delay implementation of the rule until 2020. This change would be a huge win for payday lenders, who lobbied lawmakers to block the rule last year. When those efforts failed, payday lenders “turned their attention to convincing the CFPB, now under the leadership of a Trump appointee, to change course.”
The proposal is the latest step in the Trump administration’s efforts to remake the CFPB, which was created after the 2008 global financial crisis in an attempt to protect consumers. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, argued, “This proposal essentially sends a message to predatory payday lenders that they may continue to harm vulnerable communities without penalty.” Richard Cordray, the CFPB’s former director who was in charge of finalizing the rule, described the rollback as “a bad move that will hurt the hardest-hit consumers,” adding, “It should be and will be subject to a stiff legal challenge.”
Network and cable news almost entirely ignored the CFPB’s proposed rollback, which will be open to public comment for 90 days, despite its potential to affect millions of borrowers. The only significant coverage occurred on MSNBC’s MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle in a segment that lasted over seven minutes and emphasized the detrimental impact the rollback will likely have on consumers.
MSNBC and NBC also featured two brief headline segments covering the topic on their early morning shows that each lasted less than 30 seconds. There has been no other coverage on MSNBC or NBC. CNN, Fox News, ABC, and CBS have not covered the story at all.
UPDATE (2/8): After noon on February 7, MSNBC ran two more segments covering the CFPB proposal. On MSNBC Live with Velshi and Ruhle, host Stephanie Ruhle again presented the facts in a segment that lasted over six minutes and featured New York University business professor Scott Galloway. The following hour, on MSNBC Live with Katy Tur, Katy Tur hosted former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich to discuss the damaging impact this rule will have on consumers in a segment that lasted a little over one minute.
Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “CFPB,” “consumer protections,” “consumer financial,” “roll back,” “payday,” “community financial services,” “CFSA,” and “Kraninger” on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, ABC, NBC, and CBS from February 6 to noon on February 7.