Holly Petraeus speaks about financial issues at Pearl Harbor Memorial Chapel

Holly Petraeus, assistant director of the office of service member affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, addresses military financial concerns at a Sept. 6 town hall meeting.

Story and photo by Brandon Bosworth
Contributing Writer

The Pearl Harbor Memorial Chapel hosted two town hall meetings featuring Holly Petraeus of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Sept. 6. Petraeus, along with U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa and Bruce Kim, executive director of the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection, discussed financial topics of importance to service members and their families.

Founded in 2011, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a fairly new government agency.

Petraeus explained some of the bureau’s key functions, including informing con sumers of their rights and monitoring the activities of financial institutions such as banks, lenders and debt collectors. “If a company does something unfair, abusive, or fraudulent, we have an enforcement division that can go after them in court,” she said.

Petraeus is the assistant director of the office of service member affairs section of the agency. “We try to see that all service members get the financial education they need to make better consumer decisions,” she said.

There are a couple of key points of concern for the office of service member affairs. One is military homeowners who, like many other Americans, may be experiencing difficulties in the wake of the real estate bubble bursting. According to Petraeus, her office is working with state attorney generals to craft special policies for military families facing foreclosure or similar problems.

Another issue is for-profit colleges and universities who target the military. While acknowledging that there are some good for-profit schools, Petraeus noted there are things potential students should be aware of.

“More than half of those who enroll in one of these institutions doesn’t graduate,” she said. “And more than half who do finish fail to find jobs.” Petraeus cited a study showing that some for-profit schools and universities spend more on advertising than they do on their students. She added that many of these institutions lack proper accreditation, which could pose a serious problem for graduates when they enter the job market.

The office of service member affairs also assists military personnel who believe they have been unfairly treated by a financial institution. “We’ve received 2,500 complaints from the military since opening last year,” said Petraeus.

Petraeus stressed that it is important for service members to come forward with their financial issues. “You can help someone else by telling your stories,” she said. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can be contacted via their website, www.consumerfinance.gov. Making a complaint can get results.

“So far we have managed to get back $250,000 for consumers,” said Petraeus. “When a company gets something in the mail on federal government letterhead, they tend to react.”

“It’s a capitalist society, and companies are allowed to try to make money,” said Petraeus. “But they aren’t allowed to cheat or deceive you.”

For more information or to make a complaint, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.

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Category: News