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Bill to exempt Florida credit unions from regulations advances in Senate

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The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved SB 1620 Monday, a bill filed by West Palm Beach Democrat Bobby Powell that would exempt credit unions from regulation under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

However, there were also discussions about rolling back federal consumer protections by President Donald Trump, leading Fort Lauderdale Democrat Gary Farmer to attempt a late-filed amendment.

Farmer said common law fraud protects consumers only when someone makes an affirmative misrepresentation, and that recipient lies on that misrepresentation.

If no statement is made or no question is asked, something still unfair to a consumer would not be actionable under common law fraud rules, he said.

That’s what the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act is all about.

Last month, Trump signed an executive order starting the process of rolling back consumer protections under the federal Dodd-Frank Act Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  The order directs the Treasury Secretary to consult with regulators about what needs to be done to fix Dodd-Frank and report back.

Trump also called for a review of what is known as the fiduciary role, which requires investment brokers handling retirement funds to put their clients’ interests ahead of other factors, such as their compensation or company profits.

“There is a great concern now there will be a void at the federal level, and because of that void, the justification for exempting banks from the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act,” Farmer said.

“Stated another way, federal law was providing a backstop to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive practices by banks,” he added. “That backstop is being taken away, and so I believe we should put banks and credit unions on the same footing but that footing, would be that they would both be they would be subject to unfair and deceptive trade practices act.”

After Powell had said he did not have enough time to review the proposal and called it an unfriendly amendment, Farmer withdrew it, adding that he hopes to consult further with Powell about it before it goes to its next committee.

A companion bill has been filed in the House by West Park Democrat Shevrin Jones (HB 1347).

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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