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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Elizabeth Warren vs. Capital One: A Victory for Consumers Over Corporate Greed

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Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the last 25 years, you know that the Republican Party has been railing against "big government" for years. The problem, of course, is that most are hypocrites on the issue of big government. There are many examples of this hypocrisy; here are just a few:

Because many Republicans rely on campaign contributions from the "religious right", they seek to restrict a woman's right to choose, limit contraceptive distribution, limit planned parenthood and other important agencies. These endeavors, if they were successful, would have a huge impact on the poor's need for entitlements and the general public's obligation to support them through higher taxes. Yes, Republican policies in this area would probably result in higher taxes. So, smaller government, but placing government in our bedrooms, is OK with these Republicans.

Because many Republicans rely on campaign contributions from insurance companies, hospital associations, medical professionals and large corporations, limited government, constitutional Republicans seek to limit a person's access to the civil justice system. In other words, they support "tort reform". Aside from the fact that their positions on these issues are in violation of the 7th Amendment of the Constitution, they have the same effect that the "bedroom issues" have. They limit the obligations of (bail out) insurance companies and corporations and under compensate injured and disabled victims of wrongdoing. If these unfortunate souls do not receive full compensation from the wrongdoers, where do they go when inadequate compensation proceeds run out? You guessed it: They go on public assistance and the taxpayer pays what the wrongdoers should. Are the Republicans on the right side of that issue? Of course not, but insurance companies and large corporations are their campaign contributing constituencies. Who cares about the public? Who cares about the injured and/or disabled? Long live the corporations! God bless Citizens United!

Finally, we have the banks. Apparently, the fact that the taxpayers bailed them out in 2008 and continues to bail them out during the mortgage crises isn't enough for them. They have continued, despicably so, to try to kill a part of the federal bureaucracy that I would bet you didn't even know existed. They have enlisted Republican support to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Why? Because this agency has the power to assess huge fines against banks, for banking and credit abuses. The agency has the muscle to require them to change their business practices, the power to make them more consumer friendly. Recently, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau settled a dispute with Capital One. Ultimately, it ordered Capital One to refund some $140 million dollars to its credit card customers and pay a penalty of $25 million. Apparently, the Bureau found that Cap One used deceptive techniques in marketing "add-on's" like payment protection and credit status monitoring when they issued and activated new credit cards to new customers. Capital One was also sanctioned by the Treasury Department"s office of the Comptroller of the Currency and must pay a total penalty of $210 million.

How cool is this consumer protection agency? No courts, no trial, no judge, no jury, no attorneys required to submit proofs, no attorney fees to the consumers, yet Capital One is socked with $210 million in sanctions for its quasi-criminal behavior, much of which must be refunded to customers. A pro-consumer agency that functions like this?! No wonder big banks and the Republicans want to limit its power or kill it altogether!

This agency protects the public from corporate predators, yet certain public servants from a certain political party (should they be called "private corporation servants"?) stand in opposition of its work and its power. The chances of a private consumer or group of consumers getting a federal or local prosecutor to pursue criminal fraud charges against a huge corporate defendant like Cap One are nil. Class action litigation could produce a similar result, but a significant amount of recovered dollars go to attorneys. A finding by the CFPB results in virtually all of the money going to the government (taxpayers) and the consumers. So, again, the question is: Republicans oppose this agency why?

Capital One and other corporate criminals have been in trouble before, with different agencies, different branches of government, different governments and different countries. It is hard to know whether the CFPB will be effective in preventing repeat conduct. While Mitt Romney likes to say that "corporations are people too", it is people who run these corporations who set companies on the course of misconduct or criminality. I have yet to read about any executive of Capital One or any other corporate wrongdoer being personally brought up on charges, sanctioned or fined. Further, context is important. While $210 Million is a lot of money, how painful is the penalty in the context of Cap One's annual earnings of almost $20 Billion per year? Is this the equivalent of trying to kill a giant with a slingshot? Is it, indeed, a David vs. Goliath type situation? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren, who, in 2007, was instrumental in helping to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is running for the Senate in Massachusetts. She is opposing incumbent Republican, Scott Brown, for Ted Kennedy's old seat. Teddy must be rolling over in his grave with the knowledge that a Republican is sitting in a seat so long occupied by him and his brother. In fairness to Brown, he was one of only three Republicans in the Senate who voted for Dodd-Frank, the financial reform package that helped create the CFPB. But Elizabeth Warren is a long-time champion of consumer rights and, in her role as a special advisor to the Treasury, she handled the day-to-day operations of the Bureau and was instrumental in assuring that Cap One was held accountable. She criticizes Republicans for continuing to seek legislation restricting agency funding and making it less independent. In other words, Republicans want to control and restrict agency activity.

Are your candidates pro-consumer or pro-corporation? That's what the 2012 election is shaping up to be about. How much power is exercised with how much money? Billions are being spent trying to buy your vote. But, remember, it is your vote. Hopefully it can't be bought; hopefully citizen common sense will prevail. A return to pre-2008 failed policies will undermine our nation's recovery. The Romney nonsense that what is good for corporations is good for our citizens should be repudiated.

Do insurance companies, doctors, hospitals, big pharma and big tobacco who lobby for more tort reform have the public interest or private profits in mind? Do right wing politicians who lobby for bedroom activity restrictions and intrusions into other private matters do so for the good of the public? What is more important to your candidate, the banks or public/consumer interests? These are important issues, important distinctions that define candidates and parties seeking public office in these 2012 elections. Please remember to vote in 2012 and vote in the public, not the corporate, interest. Together, despite Citizens United, one vote, one person at a time, we can prevent the corporate takeover of our political system.

Mark M. Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer. He is recognized as an expert in this field by ExpertPages.com and ALM Experts. Mr. Bello is a sustaining and Justice PAC member of the Michigan Trial Lawyers Association, Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Member of the American and Michigan Bar Associations, Member of Public Justice and Public Citizen, Member of InjuryBoard, out-of-state member of the Mississippi Association for Justice and a business associate of the Florida Justice Association, Texas Trial Lawyers Association and the Consumer Attorneys of California. His articles have appeared in LawyersandSettlements.com, FindLaw, The West Reporter, The Safety Report, Plaintiff Magazine, Advocate Magazine, and other fine legal publications.

2 Comments

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  1. Jeff B. says:
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    Excellent post! “Are your candidates pro-consumer or pro-corporation? That’s what the 2012 election is shaping up to be about…”

  2. Philip R White says:
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