April 26, 2018
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th St. NW
Washington DC 20503
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 Yet, during your tenure, the Bureau has terminated investigations, withdrawn lawsuits, and put much of its enforcement activity on hold.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.
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 Federation of America
Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety
Empire Justice Center
Housing Action Illinois
Integra Home Counseling, Inc.
Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
Main Street Alliance
Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition
National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA)
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
Public Justice Center
Tuscaloosa Citizens Against Predatory Practices
Virginia Citizens Consumer Council