Economy 4.0

Consumers Protecting Consumers

David Brancaccio Oct 29, 2010

Elizabeth Warren is the guiding force behind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – now under construction in Washington. This week, she shared some of her thoughts with Marketplace listeners about how the first new government agency of the 21st century will have to embrace technology so that millions of American consumers can help the agency work toward a more stable financial system that serves the interests of more people.

At a keynote address Thursday night on the campus of the University of California, Warren developed her theme of using online systems, databases, and crowd-sourcing techniques to ensure her bureau remains accountable to the public. In the speech, warned of agency “capture,” where government becomes beholden to lobbyists and the lawyers of special interests. Technology, she suggested, has the capacity to shield the new agency from capture.

Warren spoke about using online systems so that consumers could serve as a kind of financial Neighborhood Watch. “The agency can empower a well-informed population to help expose, early on, financial tricks. If rules are being broken, we don’t have to wait for an expert in Washington to wake up.”

Equipping her new bureau with the fanciest apps isn’t in itself controversial. A much tougher task will be crafting the rules that will guide the powerful financial services industry.

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