Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to thank both you and Ranking Member Sarbanes for holding this hearing on the affiliate sharing preemptions contained in the Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 1996. Reauthorization of the affiliate sharing preemption is essential, as is our continued examination of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
In the past two hearings on issues pertaining to the reauthorization of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, I have discussed the importance of affiliate sharing with some of our witnesses. In each instance, the witness agreed that affiliate sharing is vitally important. Today we have the opportunity to more fully explore the numerous advantages that affiliate sharing provides to consumers, financial institutions, and public policy objectives. We all benefit now that judgments based on race and gender have been taken out of the equation of credit worthiness, and one can now walk into a store and obtain a line of credit in minutes. Consumers clearly benefit when they are able to call a single person in their bank and that customer service agent is able to access each of their different accounts at once. We all know the frustration of being transferred from person to person when we're attempting to get our questions answered at a bank. With affiliate sharing, more and more institutions are able to develop systems to minimize the need to transfer customers from department to department.
In addition, affiliate sharing allows financial institutions to realize greater efficiencies by permitting them to consolidate customer service and administrative functions for their affiliate businesses. A loss of all or part of the affiliate sharing preemption would result in an increase of time and money wasted by consumers across the country, not to mention the increased frustration caused by being passed from person to person at their bank. Let me be clear: privacy of personal information is very important, and I will work to implement reasonable protections. However, we must strive for a balance and should not sacrifice the efficiency of our credit system in the name of privacy. In many ways, I believe our responsibility is like that of doctors in the Hippocratic Oath: "First do no harm."
Just as importantly, affiliate sharing assists financial institutions in their anti-terrorism efforts, by helping them detect and prevent money laundering. A customer service agent who can review all of a consumer's accounts is more likely to spot potential problems or concerns. The value of this added benefit is extremely important, especially when we rely so heavily on the vigilance of our financial institutions and their cooperation with law enforcement officials.
It is my hope that today's hearing will give us an opportunity to further explore these issues with our witnesses and that it will lead us all to greater appreciation of the advantages that consumers, industry and the government receive from the practice. Finally, I want to thank our distinguished panel of witnesses for taking the time to join us here today. I look forward to working with my colleagues as we move closer to reauthorizing the important preemptions contained in the Fair Credit Reporting Act.