November 3rd, 2017
To read the full op-ed in the Santa Clarita Valley Signal, click here
Have you ever had your bank or credit card company wrongly charge you a $15 overdraft fee and then ignore your complaints to customer service for a refund? If so, what did do you do? You used to have three options: (1) hire a lawyer on your own to represent you, which would cost much more than your bank stole from you; (2) join together with other people your bank also cheated and bring a class action lawsuit; or (3) realize the deck is stacked against you, leave a bad review on Yelp, and kiss your $15 goodbye.
Realistically, the only way to get that money back was to join with other people who were taken advantage of and bring a class action lawsuit against the corporation. Unfortunately, extreme Republicans in Congress, including our own Representative Steve Knight, voted to take that option away from consumers, essentially allowing the biggest banks to steal money from each and every one of us whenever they choose.
As a consumer rights attorney, I’ve seen countless cases in which banks, insurance companies, and corporations try to steal from the consumers they’re supposed to serve because they know career corporate politicians in Washington wrote the rules to let them take advantage of us.
Bankers know how to game the system. Banks don’t usually steal $15 million from one person at a time because that multi-millionaire would hire a top lawyer to get her money back. More commonly, banks do something like overcharge one million different customers by $15. And those banks know it just doesn’t make sense for each person to spend the time and money suing a bank to recover the $15 on their own. So, after Republicans in Congress voted to take away the right of people to join together to sue the bank in a class action, where does that leave us? With the bank walking away with the $15 million it stole, and all of us consumers a little lighter in the wallet.
This scenario unfortunately isn’t just a hypothetical. Recently we’ve been overrun with stories of financial institutions out of control: from Wells Fargo creating millions of fake accounts, to the Equifax hack exposing 143 million Americans to potential identify theft, and let’s not forget all the bogus foreclosures during the financial collapse right here in the 25th District.
It’s time to finally say enough is enough. We need our representatives to start working for us, not the big banks who line corporate politicians’ pockets with huge campaign contributions. In Congress, I will work tirelessly to rewrite these rules and unrig this stacked system. It’s long past time our representatives stand up to banks and corporations, rather than continuing to let them steal from us without consequence.
Bryan Caforio is a candidate for California’s 25th Congressional District and a consumer rights attorney who lives in Santa Clarita.