CFA News

CFAnews Update – September 29, 2021

Long-Standing CFA Director of Investor Protection Moves on to SEC

Barbara Roper, CFA’s long-standing Director of Investor Protection, has left the Federation after 35-years of service for a critical position at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

“Barb Roper has likely been one of the most influential and effective protectors of the American investor in recent history,” said Jack Gillis, CFA’s Executive Director. “CFA is so proud of her efforts as well as her selection to carry on her work at the SEC.”

As Senior Advisor to Chairman Gensler, Roper will continue to focus on issues relating to investor protection, according to a SEC press release.

“I’m excited to join the SEC and Chair Gensler’s leadership team,” Roper said in the SEC press release. “I’ve dedicated my career to ensuring that our capital markets work for the average investor. With investor protection at the core of the SEC’s mission, I’m looking forward to bringing that same focus on the needs of individual investors to my work for the SEC.”

As CFA looks for a permanent successor for Roper, Mike Canning has joined the organization in a consulting position. Canning will be leaving his position at the North American Securities Administrators Association to form the LXR Group, a public policy consulting firm. Canning will work alongside Dylan Bruce, CFA’s Financial Services Counsel, to continue Roper’s legacy of protecting investors.

Secretary of Education Urged to Deliver on Promise for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

CFA joined over 200 diverse organizations, representing millions of public service workers and student loan borrowers, in a letter urging Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to take immediate action to deliver on the promise of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PLSF) Program.

The PSLF Program provides a path for student loan forgiveness for public service workers who have completed a decade of service. In the letter, the organizations also called for the Department of Education to guarantee that “any and all changes to the PSLF program aren’t just prospective but provide retroactive relief to all dedicated public service workers with student debt,” and that there is no need to “wait for the Department of Education to write new rules.”

Since the Department of Education called for public comments on the future of the PSLF, nearly 45,000 individual student loan borrowers across all 50 states shared their experiences with the government, demanding that the Biden Administration restore the promise of this important loan forgiveness program. The letter from the organizations described “how workers across the country have faced widespread, systemic barriers to obtaining their rightful benefits under the PSLF while at the same time responding to an unprecedented public health emergency.” The organizations indicated that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, “…public service workers have remained on the hook for debts they should not owe.”

Since the creation of the PLSF program in 2017 a shocking “98 percent of those who applied have been rejected.” Unified, these 200+ organizations called on Secretary Cardona to restore the promise of the PSLF program and implement three critical efforts:

  • Eliminate all student debt owed by those who have served the public for a decade or more
  • Grant one year of credit for each year of service for all public service workers who owe any type of federal student loan
  • Ensure that relief to public service workers is automatic

“It is incumbent that the Department of Education listen to and meet the demands of the nearly 45,000 student loan borrowers from throughout the country who have shared their experiences with the failed PSLF system,” said Rachel Gittleman, CFA’s Financial Services Outreach Manager. “The Department of Education must restore the promise of this program by removing systemic barriers to obtaining forgiveness and eliminating the debt of all those who have served this country for a decade or more.”

FCC Urged to Ensure Robust Call Blocking Continues

CFA joined several national consumer organizations and the Electronic Privacy Information Center in calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure that unwanted and illegal calls continue to be blocked and that these efforts be expanded to develop new call blocking mechanisms.

In the joint letter, the organizations stated that it is “essential that the current aggressive blocking methodologies be permitted to continue, and encouraged to expand, as robocalls are still a major problem for American telephone subscribers.”

USTelecom, an organization that represents telecommunications-related businesses, filed a Petition for Reconsideration calling on the FCC to reconsider the requirement “that providers that block calls provide notice of the blocking by sending certain codes to the callers,” according to the letter. Their Petition for Reconsideration calls for relief from these requirements.

If the FCC does not make this commitment to consumers “a significant amount of call blocking that is currently being done to protect consumers from unwanted and illegal calls will cease,” according to CFA, EPIC, and the other organizations signing on to the letter.

“The plague of unwanted robocalls has cost consumers dearly in terms of wasted time and aggravation,” said Dr. Mark Cooper, CFA’s Director of Research. “Every tool that reduces those impacts must be used to the fullest, with additional measures developed as quickly as possible.”

Groups Urge Committee to Reject Proposal to Expand Reporting Regime for Private Financial Information

­CFA and other consumer and privacy organizations have asked the heads of the Senate Committee on Finance to reject a proposal by the U.S. Treasury Department to dramatically expand the mandatory reporting regime for private financial information for tax purposes.

Specifically, the groups stated that “requiring operators of peer-to-peer payment apps and similar services to collect individuals’ taxpayer identification information was not justified,” and that this process could expose American tax payers to identity theft by putting their social security numbers at risk.

If the proposal passes, peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo would be required “to collect Taxpayer Identification Numbers for virtually all payee accounts.” Furthermore, there is “no evidence that reporting of gross inflows and outflows from peer-to-peer payment accounts would address any tax gap for business income.” This proposal would instead “significantly increase data breach and identity theft risks for hundreds of millions of Americans who use these services.” This is because most individuals do not have a separate tax identification number in addition to their social security number.

Social security numbers are considered “keys to the kingdom for identity thieves,” the organizations wrote, because they can be used to open new accounts and are difficult to change. If an identity thief gains access to a person’s SSN, they can:

  • File fraudulent tax returns in your name
  • Open new accounts in your name
  • Take out lines of credit in your name
  • Receive unemployment, food stamps and Social Security benefits in your name and;
  • Apply for student loans and obtain driver’s licenses and passports in your name.

“This is a misguided idea that could cause more harm than good,” said Susan Grant, CFA’s Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy. “Congress should make sure that big corporations pay their fair share of taxes rather than requiring peer-to-peer payment companies to collect highly sensitive personal information from individuals in order for the IRS to hunt for small amounts of taxable income that may be among the millions of payments individuals make to each other through those services.”

Over 90 Wisconsin Employers Join Wisconsin Saves Automatic Saving Initiative

Ninety-three employers in Wisconsin, representing nearly 10,000 employees, have joined a statewide effort to help more Wisconsin workers save automatically and successfully through their paycheck. This statewide effort is educating consumers on the importance of automatic saving to help address the challenges facing so many Wisconsin families when inevitable emergency expenses occur.  The employers represent a cross section of industries from state and local governments, construction and real estate, manufacturing, retail and wholesale and financial institutions.

The Wisconsin Saves Automatic Saving Initiative encourages employers to help their employees save automatically by educating them about split deposits. As the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic stretch on, Wisconsin Saves has focused on small to mid-size employers, promoting this initiative to show the “ease and benefits of saving automatically for emergencies to their employees.”

“We know that employers can serve as a powerful source of information for their workers,” said Wendy Baumann, president of Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation and a member of the Wisconsin Saves Executive Committee. “These organizations are demonstrating their commitment to the financial wellbeing of their employees, and we are hopeful that it will help more Wisconsinites be prepared for unexpected expenses.”