On June 14, CFPB Director Richard Cordray issued a letter to Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) in response to the House Financial Services Committee’s (Committee) June 6 interim majority staff report on the investigation of the role federal financial regulators played in detecting and remedying a major national bank’s practice of opening unauthorized bank accounts. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the Bureau issued a consent order to the bank last September over allegations that the bank employees’ improper sales practice of opening unauthorized accounts as part of an incentive compensation program was unfair and abusive. In his letter, Director Cordray defended the CFPB’s role in the investigation and detailed inaccuracies and errors in the Committee’s report.
The Committee’s report notes that immediately after the September 8 CFPB announcement, the House Financial Services Committee began a “comprehensive investigation” to answer two questions: (i) “how and why [the bank] allowed these fraudulent activities to occur at a disturbing scale across the [b]ank for well over a decade”; and (ii) “whether or not federal financial regulators were effective in detecting and remedying [the bank’s] fraudulent branch sale practices.” According to the report, “[o]ver the course of six months, the CFPB only produced 1,010 pages of records comprised almost entirely of records easily obtainable from [the bank] or the OCC”—both of which, the report contends, have cooperated fully with the investigation. In April 2017, the CFPB received a subpoena but allegedly provided records previously produced by the bank. Due to a lack of cooperation, the Committee staff recommended the possibility of issuing deposition subpoenas to CFPB employees to investigate Director Cordray’s alleged failure to respond, as well as the suggestion of bringing contempt proceedings against Director Cordray to enforce compliance with the subpoena.
Director Cordray responded that, among others things, the majority staff of the Committee refused to receive a September 2016 follow-up briefing from Bureau staff and failed to respond to his offer to publicly testify at a Committee hearing. Furthermore, Director Cordray states that the CFPB has submitted over 57,000 pages of records “in an effort to comply with the Committee’s broadly worded requests.” He notes the complaint about the documents in the CFPB’s production being “redundant of documents received from either [the bank] or the OCC, though the same point could be made in reverse,” and that his staff has repeatedly sought guidance from the Committee to narrow the scope but has yet to receive a response.
In response to the Committee’s query as to why it took more than a decade to uncover the bank’s practice of opening unauthorized accounts, Director Cordray responded that the Bureau opened its doors in 2011—more than 10 years after the bank’s activities commenced according to the Committee’s report—and wasn't fully operational until 2014.