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Mini-CFPB? Pennsylvania attorney general launches consumer financial protection unit

Former CFPB enforcement lawyer Nicholas Smyth will lead state watchdog

With the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau now entering its seventh year squarely in the crosshairs of the Republican Party, one state is taking matters into its own hands to ensure that its residents are protected from the unscrupulous practices of financial services companies, no matter what happens to the CFPB.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced this week that he is launching a Consumer Financial Protection Unit designed to “better protect Pennsylvania consumers from financial scams.”

According to Shapiro’s office, the state’s Consumer Financial Protection Unit will “focus on lenders that prey on seniors, families with students, and military service members, including for-profit colleges and mortgage and student loan servicers.”

While there is a serious push in Washington, D.C. to blunt, if not do away with the CFPB, Pennsylvania’s Consumer Financial Protection Unit will be led by one of the attorneys that helped found the agency.

According to Shapiro’s office, the state’s new financial watchdog will be run by Nicholas Smyth, who was the CFPB’s fourth employee and served as assistant director of the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection (the precursor to the CFPB).

Smyth also helped draft the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act), which created the CFPB.

While at the CFPB, Smyth led the investigation into auto lender Drivetime, which resulted in an $8 million settlement in 2014.

Smyth also worked on the CFPB’s case against ITT Educational Services, which was the CFPB’s first enforcement action against a for-profit college. Additionally, Smyth worked on an investigation of U.S. Bank’s MILES Program, an auto finance program for military service members, which led to $6.5 million in consent orders.

“Protecting the public from financial scams is a key priority of mine, and Nick Smyth will help us expand our capacity to bring complex cases against financial companies that try to rip off Pennsylvanians,” Shapiro said in a statement. “Our Consumer Protection team is here to fight on behalf of Pennsylvanians and make sure they get what they paid for and get their money back if they don’t.”

Of his new position, Smyth said that he is looking forward to helping the citizens of Pennsylvania.

“I am honored to join the attorney general’s terrific consumer protection team,” Smyth said. “The Consumer Protection Bureau saves Pennsylvania families millions of dollars each year, and I am excited to contribute to this great work.”

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