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From Banking and Finance Law Daily, February 13, 2018

CFPB strategic plan: fulfill statutory duties ‘but go no further’

By Katalina M. Bianco, J.D.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has published its strategic plan for fiscal years 2018-2022, outlining its mission, goals, and objectives. Acting Director Mick Mulvaney made it clear that the CFPB’s strategic plan presents a revised mission for the Bureau under his leadership, focusing now on "equally protecting the legal rights of all, including those regulated by the Bureau."

"If there is one way to summarize the strategic changes occurring at the Bureau, it is this: we have committed to fulfill the Bureau’s statutory responsibilities, but go no further," Mulvaney said. "By hewing to the statute [Dodd-Frank Act], this Strategic Plan provides the Bureau ready roadmap, a touchstone with a fixed meaning that should serve as a bulwark against the misuse of our unparalleled powers."

According to the plan, the Bureau now will focus on "regulating consumer financial products or services under existing federal consumer financial laws, enforcing those laws judiciously, and educating and empowering consumers to make better informed financial decisions."

Vision. The plan describes the Bureau’s vision. "Free, innovative, competitive, and transparent consumer finance markets where the rights of all parties are protected by the rule of law and where consumers are free to choose the products and services that best fit their individual needs." To achieve this vision, the CFPB will:

  • seek the counsel of others;
  • equally protect the legal rights of all;
  • confidently do what is right; and
  • act with humility and moderation.

Strategic goals. The plan outlines three strategic goals for FY 2018-2022:

  1. Ensure that all consumers have access to markets for consumer financial products and services.
  2. Implement and enforce the law consistently to ensure that markets for consumer financial products and services are fair, transparent, and competitive.
  3. Foster operational excellence through efficient and effective processes, governance, and security of resources and information.

The plan provides objectives and strategies intended to achieve each goal, which include:

  • Regularly identify and address outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome regulations in order to reduce unwarranted regulatory burdens.
  • Obtain input and feedback with respect to existing regulations, alternative approaches to regulation, and alternatives to regulation.
  • Pursue an efficient, transparent, and inclusive approach to developing or revising regulations.
  • Carefully evaluate the potential benefits and costs of contemplated regulations.
  • Provide financial institutions, service providers, and other entities with tools and resources to support implementation and compliance with consumer financial protection laws.
  • Enforce federal consumer financial law consistently, without regard to the status of a person as a depository institution, in order to promote fair competition.
  • Enhance compliance with federal laws intended to ensure the fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory access to credit for both individuals and companies and promote fair lending compliance and education.
  • Focus supervision and enforcement resources on institutions and their product lines that pose the greatest risk to consumers based on the nature of the product, field and market intelligence, and the size of the institution and product line.
  • Enhance internal policies that facilitate the integration of the Bureau’s supervision and enforcement functions.

Brown response. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said the Bureau, "under orders from OMB [Office of Management and Budget] Director Mick Mulvaney, has decided to revise the mission and vision of the bureau by further deterring the agency from pursuing its mission of protecting consumers." He stated that financial institutions, like banks and payday lenders, "have enough lobbyists working on their behalf—the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau must continue to be fighting for working families." Brown urged the Trump Administration to "swiftly nominate someone who will have full bipartisan support in the Senate and will protect consumers instead of special interests."

Consumers Union comments. Consumers Union said the Bureau’s plan "signals that it will ease up on enforcement and investigations of shady financial practices and identifies deregulation as a top priority."

"The CFPB’s new strategic plan effectively muzzles the consumer watchdog," said Anna Laitin, Director of Financial Policy for Consumers Union. Laitin continued, "It is past time for the President to nominate, and the Senate to consider, a permanent nominee who will restore the CFPB’s critical consumer protection role."

Companies: Consumers Union

MainStory: TopStory CFPB DoddFrankAct EnforcementActions EqualCreditOpportunity Loans

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