"The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created to provide a single point of accountability for enforcing federal consumer financial laws and protecting consumers in the financial marketplace."
In January 2010, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed in response to the 2008 financial crisis.
Prior to this, there were at least seven different regulators who were responsible for various aspects of consumer finance, and some rules had not been updated in many years. As you might imagine there were gaps in coverage, and when you added in a lack of comminication between regulators, the banks and other lenders (especially mortgage brokers and so-called "payday lenders") were left effectively unregulated.
The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created to be an all-in-one agency covering every aspect of consumer finance from rules, regulations, and enforcement, to assisting consumers who have been harmed by illegal or unethical practices. They have successfully taken on institutions that ripped off military members and veterans, banks (such as Wells Fargo) that illegally created additional accounts in consumers' names, illegal student lenders, illegal collections practices, lenders of all kinds who misrepresent fees and costs involved in their loans, and much more.
In their first five years, CFPB actions resulted in $11.7 billion in relief for over 27 million harmed consumers.
The CFPB also handled over one million individual complaints and created a wealth of resources for any American dealing with banks, lenders, or any other financial companies ranging from payday loans to unscrupulous (or fake) collection agencies.
Republicans in Congress have attempted to neutralize the power of the CFPB, first by refusing to confirm (now Senator) Elizabeth Warren's appointment as head of the agency she helped to create; in July 2011 her nomination was removed from consideration and President Barack Obama nominated Richard Cordray to lead the CFBP. After months of Congressional inaction, in January 2012 President Obama made it a recess appointment. In July 2013, two full years after his nomination, the Senate finally voted to confirm Cordray for a five-year term as Director of the CFPB.
On multiple occasions since it's creation, Congressional Republicans have attempted to cut funding to the CFPB. With the results of the recent election, it is difficult to predict how the CFPB may be affected. Michelle Singletary of The Washington Post wrote on November 15, 2016 that "Trump's election does not bode well for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."
On January 24th, 2017 the Los Angeles Times published an article by Jim Puzzanghera entitled "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director says Trump won't change agency's aggressive efforts", recounting Director Cordrays comments at a Wall Street Journal forum held earlier that day. Codray stated that he will continue to aggressively hold banks and financial firms accountable. Cordray said, “We’re expected to work with different administrations of different points of view. We have … an independent mandate to do what we do and we will continue working to protect consumers.”
Despite these difficulties, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been a strong and tough ally for American consumers.
In addition to helping resolve disputes with financial companies (who are generally quicker to respond when a federal agency becomes involved) and stopping illegal activities by many financial companies, they have created numerous instructional materials. They cover a wide variety of topics, including guides for service members and veterans and older Americans, "Know Before You Owe" guides to auto loans, mortgages, and student loans, information for those who are in the situation of managing someone else's finances , and even tools for teaching kids the basics of good personal financial management.