A new poll of small business owners finds they want to see tougher rules imposed on Wall Street firms and other financial companies.

Eighty percent of small business owners believe Wall Street and financial companies should be held accountable for the practices that caused the financial crisis through tougher rules and enforcement, and two-thirds believe the level of government oversight of financial companies should increase or is about right the way it is, according to a survey conducted by the advocacy group Small Business Majority.

In addition, 84 percent of the entrepreneurs polled said they support the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—the organization created by the 2010 Dodd Frank Act to protect people from abusive lending practices—and believe the CPFB is needed to prevent predatory financial practices and ensure all financial institutions treat small businesses and consumers fairly.

The national Internet poll of 500 small business owners, conducted by Lake Research Partners for Small Business Majority, found that nearly six in 10 entrepreneurs agree that for far too long, Wall Street banks and financial companies wrote their own rules, leaving small businesses and consumers vulnerable and without protection. They believe the CFPB is needed because its mission is to change that.

While this issue is often times politicized, it is not a partisan one for small businesses, the group argued. Republican poll respondents outnumbered those who identified as Democrats by 52-34 percent. Those identifying as independent made up 11 percent of respondents.

By a two-to-one ratio, small business owners agreed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should maintain independent funding so that financial industry lobbyists cannot block its work when it makes decisions they do not like. Six in 10 agree with this, while just 29 percent believe the CFPB’s funding should go through the Congressional budget process.

“Small businesses, along with our economy, are getting stronger, but they’re certainly not immune to the lingering effects of our financial meltdown,” said Small Business Majority CEO John Arensmeyer in a statement. “That’s why they feel strongly that Wall Street banks and other financial institutions need to be held accountable with tougher regulations. Predatory lending practices are still a problem and small businesses support the government’s and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s role in fixing that.”

The poll also found a strong link between small business finance and personal credit: 58 percent of small business owners said they have used a personal credit card to finance their business and 53 percent have personally guaranteed a loan for their business. That makes it clear why small businesses strongly support provisions of the 2009 Credit CARD Act, which established a series of laws to help protect consumers from banks and other financial institutions.

Small businesses nearly unanimously supported every aspect of the Credit CARD Act they were asked about: 96 percent support requiring financial companies to give at least 45 days notice of substantial change in terms, 98 percent support requiring that monthly statements include clear due dates, and 19 in 20 owners would like to see the Credit CARD Act provisions extended to small business credit cards (they currently only apply to personal credit cards). Six in 10 strongly support this.

“More work needs to be done to give small businesses the ability to push back against these unfair practices. A lot of small businesses don’t have the power or the resources to fight against the big banks and financial companies,” said Shaundell Newsome, president and CEO of Sumnu Marketing in Las Vegas. “These companies’ practices haven’t really changed since the recession, which is why I think it’s incredibly important the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created to keep these folks accountable. However, many of the protections that individuals are seeing should be afforded to small businesses, as well.”

Nearly four in 10 entrepreneurs (37 percent) report a firsthand experience with a bank or other financial institution processing their bank transactions in a way that maximizes fees, such as by processing withdrawals faster than deposits, or changing the order of withdrawals to generate more overdraft fees.

Nine out of 10 small business owners surveyed said they support regulations to explicitly bar banks from doing this, and instead require them to process transactions neutrally. Twenty-four percent have experienced a lack of transparency or unclear terms with prepaid cards, mobile banking and more.

Ninety-four percent of the small business owners would support regulations requiring full disclosure of terms for these financial products up front.

For the full report, visit http://www.smallbusinessmajority.org/small-business-research/financial-reform.

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