Brent Adams is an experienced financial and social justice advocate with background in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors. In 2015 he joined Woodstock Institute as Vice President of Policy and leads Woodstock’s policy advocacy and government relations work at the local, state, and national levels. He collaborates with the Senior Vice President for Research in setting the organization’s research agenda and develops and disseminates the policy positions. Brent leads state and national coalition work, builds relationships with colleague organizations, and assists with fundraising.
A licensed attorney since 1997, Brent has worked as a litigator, lobbyist, political organizer, teacher, and policy advocate. Brent began his career as a litigator for one of Chicago’s largest law firms. In 2002, he pursued his passion for not-for-profit advocacy and became a policy associate for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and later, became the Policy Director for Citizen Action/Illinois. At Citizen Action, he authored the Payday Loan Reform Act. Furthering his work within the financial services arena, he became an attorney for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation in 2006. In 2009, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn appointed Mr. Adams the Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation. In that capacity, Mr. Adams served as the State's top regulator, overseeing most of the state's professions. He chaired the Mortgage Fraud Task Force, which, under his leadership, disciplined more than 100 entities and assessed fines in excess of $2 million; he also coordinated the Mortgage Relief Project, a statewide program that helped thousands of struggling homeowners. In 2012, Mr. Adams pursued an interest in teaching and became a teacher and debate coach for a private school in Brooklyn, New York.
Brent received his B.S. and M.A. in Rhetoric from Northwestern University and his J.D. from New York University School of Law.
Recent posts by Brent Adams
Woodstock Institute celebrated victory in the successful defense of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) rule on prepaid cards against a repeal effort by Georgia Senator David Perdue. Sen. Perdue had attempted to do away with CFPB’s finalized prepaid rule through the Congressional Review Act, a law which enables Congress to roll back federal regulations.
The U.S. House Financial Services Committee passed the Financial Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs (CHOICE) Act on September 13, a kitchen sink piece of legislation that would roll back many of the advances made since passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. The bill takes a broad swipe at financial regulation and would decrease the power and independence of many oversight bodies. Among the bill’s targets are the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Dodd-Frank’s signature Volcker Rule restricting dangerous speculative investments on the part of banks, and the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule for retirement investment advice. This kind of legislation, regardless of whether it stands a chance of ever becoming law, represents a serious threat to regulators’ ability to protect consumers.
Donald Trump has called for a moratorium on regulations. Considered in a vacuum, this may sound like a good – or perhaps a harmless – idea. Regulations can be confusing and burdensome. Considered in the context of the complicated world of consumer finance, this idea is dangerous. Consumers – whether knowingly or not – depend on financial regulations to protect them in interactions with financial service providers, such as retirement investment advisors (more on that in a minute). Buying a home, applying for a credit card, opening a bank account, these are just a few examples of instances in which consumers must enter the oftentimes confusing realm of consumer finance. Absent good laws and regulations, consumers are at the mercy of their financial provider. If consumers have the bad fortune to rely on unscrupulous providers, that experience may lead to financial ruin.
April 6 was an historic day for consumers. On that day, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued the so-called Fiduciary Rule. The Fiduciary Rule, which has been years in the making and has been vigorously opposed by industry, will require retirement investment advisors to act in the best interests of the consumers they are advising.
This week was the most active week in Springfield so far this year. Friday, April 8 is the deadline for bills to pass out of committee. For Woodstock and our legislative priorities, the week was mostly successful.
Illinois’s legislative session is in full swing, and Woodstock is monitoring many bills that fall within the scope of our mission: to create a just financial system in which lower-wealth persons and communities as well as people and communities of color can achieve economic security and prosperity. Here are some of the bills that we are supporting this session.
Several years ago, Woodstock joined with other consumer advocates to pass legislation to protect consumers from short-term predatory loans. The Payday Loan Reform Act became law in 2005, and reforms to the Consumer Installment Loan Act became law in 2011. Among other positive changes, those laws placed caps on the amount of interest that lenders can charge. But now, predatory lenders are creeping into the area of lending to small businesses. A report published by Woodstock in August 2014 entitled Discredited: Disparate Access to Credit for Businesses in the Chicago Six County Region reveals that lending by traditional banks is insufficient to meet the demand for small business loans, particularly for businesses in lower-income areas and for businesses in communities of color. Non-bank, “alternative” lenders, which are largely unregulated, are striving to meet this unmet demand. These alternative lenders, which provide high-cost loans with interest rates as high as 200 percent are not even required to disclose the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on their loans, which makes it difficult for borrowers to know how much their loan costs, which, in turn, makes it difficult to engage in comparison shopping.
In 2015, the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program Act became law. Under this law, employers with 25 or more employees are mandated to enroll their employees into a retirement savings account that is administered by the State. Employers who fall below the 25-employee threshold may voluntarily elect to participate in the program. Employees whose employers are participating in the program (whether by mandate or by volunteering) will have the option to opt out of the program. For those employees who don’t opt out, three percent of their pay will be deposited into the account unless the employee elects a different contribution amount. Employee enrollment in the program will begin in June 2017.