WASHINGTON—The Consumer Protection Working Group, formed under President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF), convened its first meeting in Washington, D.C., today to address consumer fraud, which can financially cripple households and can cause extensive losses to our economy. The newly created group will work across federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies, and with state and local partners, to strengthen efforts to address consumer-related fraud, including schemes targeting vulnerable populations, such as the unemployed, those in need of payday loans, and those suffering from the burden of high credit card and other debt. The new working group will also focus on scams that exploit prospective students, active-duty military personnel, and veterans.
“The schemes we are combating are as diverse as the imaginations of those who perpetrate them, and as sophisticated as modern technology will permit. Thanks in large part to the leadership of the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force we are tackling financial fraud, in all its forms, head on,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Through the extensive and coordinated partnership we start today, we will strengthen our collective efforts, enhance civil and criminal enforcement of consumer fraud and educate the public in an effort to prevent consumers from being victimized in the first place.”
Attorney General Holder delivered remarks at today’s meeting which was convened by FFETF Executive Director Michael Bresnick along with the working group’s co-chairs: Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division Lanny Breuer, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California André Birotte and Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) David Vladeck. Another co-chair, Director of Enforcement for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Kent Markus, was unable to attend the meeting.
“We know all too well how opportunistic fraudsters have adapted their schemes to take advantage of consumers facing financial hardships, using false promises of mortgage modification, debt relief, and job placement, to name a few. Since 2009, the FTC has brought over 90 cases to stop these scams,” said Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection for the FTC David Vladeck. “This partnership will only serve to enhance our collective efforts to protect consumers.”
The Consumer Protection Working Group will address several areas of concern, including payday lending and other high-pressure telemarketing or Internet scams, business opportunity schemes, for-profit schools that engage in fraud or misrepresentation, and fraudulent third party payment processors that facilitate payments on behalf of other fraudsters without the permission of the customer.
At today’s meeting, the Consumer Protection Working Group members set priorities and discussed taking collaborative steps to continue to seek out and prosecute consumer fraud as well as protect consumers from fraud before it happens through outreach and education. The new working group plans to establish a best-practices tool kit, legislative, regulatory and policy initiatives, and an information sharing structure.
Other members of the Consumer Protection Working Group include representatives from the Department of Treasury, FBI, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, U.S. Secret Service, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Trustee Program, the National Association of Attorneys General, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve Board, and the National Credit Union Administration. The state attorneys general are represented on the working group by Attorney General Lisa Madigan from Illinois, Attorney General Greg Zoeller from Indiana, and Attorney General Roy Cooper from North Carolina.
The Consumer Protection Working Group is part of ongoing enforcement efforts by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.
Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. Task force members have charged a record number of mortgage fraud cases in the past two years, trained more than 100,000 professionals responsible for awarding and overseeing Recovery Act funds and held regional summits around the country to discuss strategies, resources and initiatives, as well as to meet with communities most affected by the financial crisis.
Learn more about the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force at www.stopfraud.gov.