Schumer Floor Remarks on the CFPB Mandatory Arbitration Rule

October 24, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the CFPB mandatory arbitration rule:

Thank you, Mr. President. I want to first thank my colleagues, particularly Sherrod Brown, our ranking member of the committee, and Senators Whitehouse, Blumenthal, and Franken and so many others who have spoken so eloquently on this issue.

I don't think it's a coincidence that many members on our side have spoken and very few on the other side. It is one of those instances where the powerful will get more powerful. Everyone knows it and people are not out there beating their chests about this if they are trying to support it. It may be a little bit of being ashamed. Now, this is what's happened here. We finally have an agency to protect the consumers against large institutions, most of which are good institutions, but some of which typically take advantage of the average person. They do it in a whole variety of ways.

We saw with Equifax, the idea that they didn't have to protect people's information and were almost nonchalant about it. We saw it with Wells Fargo where people came up with a scheme. But we see it all the time and the average consumer doesn't have the lawyers and the time and the ability to study what's happening.  They don't understand the long contracts where they sign away their rights to go to court. They need a bank account, they need a car loan, they need something, and, yes, their only recourse in this case may be a class action suit, particularly if it's $20 or $30.

You're not going to go to court individually, but if it's thousands of people, a trial lawyer will make some money, yes, to protect those people. How horrible -- how horrible that people might have the ability to come together and hire a lawyer.

What's happening in the last nine months -- we have a lot of people who are disaffected. Many of the campaigns, including President Trump’s campaign, understood that. But when President Trump campaigned, he campaigned as a populist, against the powerful institutions, against the Washington lobbyists, and said let's do something for average people. But once he got into office, he has embraced the hard right whose goal in most cases is just to protect the powerful.

I don't know. They've got this sort of drumbeat going on, poor innocent people have too much power and big banks and big corporations don't have enough. Let's go after unions even though incomes are down and only 6% of private America is unionized. Let's go after them, they’re too powerful. They make these big corporations squirm. We’ll pay a little bit more money to people, pay a benefit or pay some health care. How horrible. Let's go after the trial lawyers. I don't always agree with their tactics. I voted against them on occasion, but let's go after them even though they are one of the few recourses that average people have.

Hardly as reprehensible as an Equifax or Wells Fargo in doing what they do. But people on the other side somehow they have this mythology because of the hard right and it’s machine and their think tanks and their media messaging –Fox News, that somehow the powerful are getting a bad break in America and the average person has too much power.  What is wrong? And I will say this. It’s going to lead to people being even more disillusioned and more angry and more sour and will move further away from what the American dream, and ideal and optimism is. And our colleagues on the other side -- my dear friends, I like them, I really do -- wittingly or unwittingly are part of this movement. And it's a shame. It's a shame.

Community banks aren't beleaguered by these cases. They don't usually do this stuff. When I talk to community bankers who lobbied me on this,  they basically said to me, we're with the banking association, the big banks want this. This is not little banks. These are the Wells Fargos and Equifax’s, and we shouldn't do it. We shouldn't do it.

I worry about this country, Mr. President. I love this country. It's been so good to me, my family, my people. I still believe to this day it is what the founding fathers called it when they left constitution hall, God's noble experiment. We are one nation under God. God's. Noble, we're a noble country.

No one's had the ideals we have had for hundreds of years. We're an experiment. We keep evolving and changing and adapting, as we should. But when I see what's gone on in the last nine months, a combination of the president's appeal to lower instincts of people, to divisive instincts and the hard right machine which has too much power on the other side of the aisle, I worry. I worry. I worry about the country. I worry about our standard of decency and honor.

Everyone heard Senator Flake speak today. It moved all of us. And it's a shame he's leaving this body because he's been a voice and a beacon. I didn't agree with him on most issues, as pretty obvious by our voting records, but he stood for the right thing.  

I say to my colleagues, somehow we're doing too many wrong things around here. We're trying to take away people's health care. We say we want better health care at lower costs. That's what the president says, but we put a bill on the floor that does the opposite, and we know it. We do it on taxes. We say we want to help the middle class and the tax bill dominantly helps the wealthy and our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are afraid to say they are helping the wealthiest, because they think that’s the way to create jobs and they know Americans don’t believe it nor should they.

Most recently the great Kansas experiment, the Koch brothers own laboratory totally flopped. They say unions have too much power, and yet incomes in the middle class decline. There are abuses. There are abuses everywhere, middle-class incomes decline. Fewer people have bargaining power. More people are paid lower. There are seven million fewer good-paying jobs in America today than 15 years ago, and in part that's because we don’t have unions and because the hard right has learned through legal tactics how to destroy them and now with legal tactics on the absurd argument that the first amendment says you don't have to join a union or pay dues to a union. So this is just one of many issues where once again we're helping the powerful against the powerless.

There's a political benefit, I understand. There's a fear if you go against these hard-right forces. I've heard it from my colleagues. But it's wrong for the country, and I wish -- and maybe a bell would ring -- there's lot of issues that we don't agree on, but some of these issues don't even have a basis in fact. That's why the floor is empty on the other side.  I respect my dear friend. He's a good, good man in the Flake mold. He has to be here all night and defend it, but he doesn't have too many others backing him up, and I think I know why.  Because deep down they know it's wrong. They can figure out there are abusive trial lawyers, but they still know it's wrong. They still knows it's wrong.

So, Mr. President, to sum it up, a yes vote is handing a get out of jail free card, or the equivalent, to Wells Fargo and Equifax, it's that simple. A yes vote is saying that you believe that Americans who get taken advantage of don't have the right to seek recourse. A yes vote tells rapacious financial institutions that they can continue to hose consumers without any serious consequences or accountability because we all know average folks don't have the ability to go to court on their own and sue. We know that. Everyone knows that.  So if there are abuses, let's fix them, but don't totally denude people who don’t have much power from the little power they might have through going to court. I hope maybe somebody, because the vote's close, it will take a long time to bring this bill to the floor because there were some people who wanted to stand up but they got ground down by this hard-right machine that always wants its way. They are doing great. Corporate America is making more money than ever before, financial institutions are healthier than ever before, but it's not good enough. We want more. More is fine if it didn't come at the expense of average folks when somebody's abusive. The C.R.A. is a meat cleaver approach. Those that have issues with this should try to address them with a scalpel not a bludgeon. I urge my colleagues one final time, those on the other side of the aisle to vote no on this disapproval resolution on behalf of our constituents that deserve to have more rights than when standing up to the powerful when they’re right not less.