March 11, 2009
Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren was on hand in Washington, D.C. this week as U.S. senators introduced legislation to create a new government agency, the Financial Product Safety Commission, to help consumers obtain financial products and services without predatory or deceptive financial practices.
Warren, who is currently the chairwoman of the influential Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) monitoring the Treasury’s economic rescue plan, conceived the idea of the commission, which is modeled after the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
On Tuesday, Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois and Charles Schumer of New York introduced the measure in the Senate. The commission would have rule-making authority and would coordinate enforcement with other federal and state regulators. According to the senators, the commission will not take away powers from existing agencies. It will be responsible for identifying practices that undermine sound markets and will educate consumers on the responsible use of financial products and services.
Last October, Warren co-wrote an essay, “Protect Financial Consumers,” that appeared in the November 7, 2008, issue of Harper’s Magazine. “Go into any appliance store in America and look for a toaster with a one-in-five chance of exploding. You won't find one," she wrote. “But at any mortgage brokerage in the country it has been possible to purchase a loan with a one-in-five foreclosure rate, and the broker doesn't even have to tell you the odds.”
Warren co-wrote the essay, and her 2003 book “The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke,” with her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi. She discussed the need for oversight of financial products and services in an October panel at HLS on the turmoil in financial markets.
Also on Tuesday, Warren appeared on NPR’s “Fresh Air” to discuss the rate of home foreclosures in the United States. A report issued March 6 by the Congressional Oversight Panel warns that the foreclosure rate is so large it threatens the entire economy.
Charged with reporting to Congress on the Treasury’s use of the $700 billion approved by Congress for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the Committee has issued two reports, both sharply critical of the Treasury Department at the end of the Bush Administration.