New federal task force to target financial crimes against consumers

Trump administration spokespersons say that labeling federal regulators as being progressively softer and unattuned to financial wrongdoing committed against American consumers is an unfair criticism. As a recent Wall Street Journal article notes, they counter that they are pursuing a strategy that emphasizes “punishment of bad actors even as it pursues deregulatory policies welcomed by the financial industry.”

Those two aims are not contradictory, say government officials. Rather, they up the odds for obtaining better consumer protections against fraud while simultaneously creating a leaner and more robust business environment.

An executive order signed by President Trump last month created a task force with the assigned goal of beefing up investigatory efforts spotlighting and prosecuting fraud and returning ill-gotten gains to fleeced consumers.

That’s tough, but doable, state involved officials. They stress their faith in a greater focus and synergy they believe will result from closer cooperation among several regulatory and law-enforcement groups. Key partners in the new coalition include the U.S. Department of Justice; the Securities and Exchange Commission; the Federal Trade Commission; and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

That last agency has been under a strong glare recently. It was created by the Obama administration, but subsequently overhauled in a material way. Critics of that point to a purposeful effort of the new administration to weaken its powers.

Trump officials, as well as CFPB Acting Chief Mick Mulvaney, deny that assertion. Mulvaney says that his organization welcomes participation on the new task force and that its sole focus continues to be on protecting consumers.

The formed coalition – which also includes state bodies – stresses that it will widely target financial wrongdoing and other fraud activities, while expanding probes into areas like cybercrime and wrongdoing that are specifically aimed at seniors.