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Joint Letter to CFPB: An Inquiry Process Weighted in Industry’s Favor

Submitted by on April 30, 2018 – 9:35 am

April 26, 2018
Mick Mulvaney
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th St. NW
Washington DC 20503

Leandra English
Acting Director
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
1700 G St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20552
Dear OMB Director Mulvaney and Acting CFPB Director English:

We are writing regarding concerns about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s recent Requests for Information (RFIs). The questions, the timeline and the cumulative burden involved in responding to all of these requests seem geared towards compiling an industry wish-list for weakening the agency rather than strengthening its work to protect consumers and the American public.

As you know, pursuant to its authority under the Dodd-Frank Act, the Consumer Bureau has recovered almost $12 billion for consumers. The funds came from companies that violated the law. With very few exceptions, when the Consumer Bureau presented potential defendants with the evidence that they had broken the law, the institutions agreed to settle. The size of most of the settlements was substantial and indicated that the defendants saw merit in the Consumer Bureau’s claims.

To achieve this remarkable success, the staff of the Bureau engaged in careful and thorough investigations and crafted well-drafted complaints.

The job of any leader of the CFPB should be to continue to pursue its mission to protect consumers by enforcing the law. Yet, during your tenure, the Bureau has terminated investigations, withdrawn lawsuits, and put much of its enforcement activity on hold.

Instead, you have diverted the resources of the agency to a systemic re-evaluation of the very procedures that have made the Bureau successful. The questions posed in the Requests for Information are slanted towards a weakening of the Bureau’s role in protecting consumers. Few, if any, requests are about where or how the Bureau should take stronger action against financial industry abuses.

Compounding the slanted set of questions the RFIs pose is the decision to issue a new RFI every week for several months and to limit the response time to 60 or 90 days. The rapid-fire issuance and short timeline for responses give a procedural advantage to the financial services industry relative to consumers. The industry has tremendous financial and technical resources, particularly when compared with individual consumers, consumer advocacy organizations, and academics who want to give voice to consumers’ concerns. Members of industry represent much narrower interests, but at the same time have many more dollars and hours to devote to responding to a new set of critical questions every week.

Moreover, the RFIs pose questions that are almost entirely from an industry perspective and are insufficiently specific to elicit meaningful comment. The RFIs hint at changes desired by industry without providing enough detail to inform members of the public who do not have experience with the internal workings of the Bureau or the implications of the questions. This process weighted in industry’s favor is not consistent with the CFPB mandate to focus on consumer protection.

The Consumer Bureau’s first commitment, spelled out in its mission statement, is to protect consumers. We urge the bureau to continue to prioritize consumer protection over industry-favored deregulation.

Sincerely,

 

Allied Progress

Americans for Financial Reform

Arkansans Against Abusive Payday Lending

California Reinvestment Coalition

Center for Economic Integrity

Center for Responsible Lending

Change to Win

Chicago Urban League

Connecticut Fair Housing Center

Consumer Action

Consumer Federation of America

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

Edu-Futuro

Empire Justice Center

Georgia Watch

HomeSmartNY

Housing Action Illinois

Integra Home Counseling, Inc.

Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

Main Street Alliance

Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition

NAACP

National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA)

NACA Michigan

NACA Ohio

National Community Reinvestment Coalition

National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients)

National Fair Housing Alliance

New Jersey Citizen Action

New Yorkers for Responsible Lending

Nuestra Casa de East Palo Alto

Philadelphia Unemployment Project

Prosperity Now

Public Citizen

Public Justice Center

Tuscaloosa Citizens Against Predatory Practices

UnidosUS

U.S. PIRG

Virginia Citizens Consumer Council

Woodstock Institute

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