Waters Statement on FOIA Release Revealing Unpublished Consumer Bureau Analysis on Bank Fees Charged to Students
Washington DC, December 12, 2018
Today, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) disclosure revealing a previously unreleased Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Consumer Bureau) analysis on excessive account fees charged to students by large banks, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Financial Services, made the following statement:
“It is deeply troubling that a previously unpublished Consumer Bureau analysis showing that some large banks, including Wells Fargo, charged excessive account fees to students, was only revealed in response to a Freedom of Information Act disclosure. Why wasn’t this important analysis publicly issued by the Consumer Bureau earlier? What is being done to ensure harmed students are being made whole, and what is being done to prevent excessive fees from being charged of more students?
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s analysis examined 573 colleges and universities over the 2016-2017 academic year and determined that students collectively paid $27.6 million in fees to banks. According to the Consumer Bureau’s analysis, while most students are able to use a college-sponsored account free of any fees, Wells Fargo charged students an average of $46.99 in account fees over 12 months, which was the most in fees on average and nearly double the fees charged by TCF National Bank and U.S. Bank, which ranked second and third in the average amount of fees charged. Prior research by the Consumer Bureau suggests that cases where average account fees are significantly larger than median fees could result from accounts charging overdraft or other penalty fees. They found nearly one-in-ten student accounts that they analyzed incurred 10 or more overdrafts per year, paying on average $196 in overdraft fees. As part of that analysis, the Consumer Bureau expressed concerns that college-sponsored accounts that charge such high fees may run afoul of federal regulations that these accounts “not be inconsistent with the best financial interests” of their students when lower-cost accounts are widely available.