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Obama Blasts Bank of America's Debit Fee

Tuesday, 4 Oct 2011 | 9:39 AM ET
Barack Obama
CNBC.com
Barack Obama

Barack Obama blasted Bank of America's plan to charge $5 a month for debit card purchases.

“This is exactly why we need this Consumer Finance Protection Bureau that we set up that is ready to go," Obama said. "This is exactly why we need somebody who's sole job it is to prevent this kind of stuff from happening. ... You can stop it because if you say to the banks, ‘You don't have some inherent right just to – you know, get a certain amount of profit. If your customers – are being mistreated. That you have to treat them fairly and transparently.”

The President said this in an interview with ABC. Ben White of Politico's Morning Money drew attention to his remarks.

The quote startled bankers because it seemed to imply that the CFPB would be micro-managing banks.

In some ways, the Bank of America fee is the most transparent imaginable. Bank customers will pay for it directly, and the fee has garnered so much publicity that it is hard to imagine that many customers will be taken off-guard.

On the other hand, the only way that this fee will generate substantial revenue is if customers are caught unaware or unable to pay by alternative means. So it may well be a good test-case for CFPB paternalism.

Nonetheless, the bankers are outraged. With Bank of America shares trading at lows not seen since the depths of financial crisis, many believe that Obama should not be hammering banks.



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