The Department of the Treasury recently cited the CFPB’s “unaccountable structure and unduly broad regulatory powers,” in suggesting reforms to address the CFPB’s “regulatory abuses and excesses.” The Department’s recommendations were made as a part of its report, A Financial System that Creates Economic Opportunities: Bank and Credit Unions, issued in response to President Trump’s Executive Order 13772 on Core Principles for Regulating the United States Financial System. The report covers a number of topics, but includes a significant section addressing the perceived concerns with and proposed changes to the CFPB’s structure and practices.

In the report, the Department pointed to a number of core issues with the CFPB it believes necessitate sweeping reforms, including a lack of accountability, the CFPB’s failure to provide adequate notice to regulated parties, the CFPB’s heavy reliance on enforcement actions, the limited availability of no-action letters providing guidance; the use of administrative actions to circumvent federal court procedures and applicable statute of limitations; the CFPB’s failure to adequately review outdated and unnecessary regulation requirements; and the CFPB’s failure to verify consumer complaints before including the information in its public database.

In light of this strong criticism, the Department has suggested a number of changes, intended to curb the abuses it noted in its review:

  • Improved Accountability:The Department proposes making the CFPB Director removable at will by the President or restructuring the CFPB, so it is led by an independent multi-member commission or board to increase accountability. Similarly, the Department recommends substantially altering funding such that the CFPB is funded through the annual appropriations process and is not permitted to retain funds from the Consumer Financial Penalty Fund.
  • Improved Transparency on Agency Positions: Many of the Department’s concerns center around a failure of the CFPB to clearly delineate its positions on banking practices before proceeding with enforcement actions. To rectify this failure, the Department recommends issuing clear rules subject to public comment before bringing enforcement actions, clarifying the CFPB’s position on what actions it considers unfair and deceptive, and increasing the availability of no-action letters.
  • Ending Abuses in Enforcement Actions: The Department notes significant misuses of administrative actions in its review and proposes limiting or altogether cutting out the use of administrative proceedings in favor of more formal federal court proceedings to address this concern.
  • Reviewing Regulations: The Department suggests a regular (at least every ten year), review of CFPB regulations for any that are outdated, unduly burdensome, or unnecessary.
  • Locking Down the Consumer Database: Given the concerns with reputational risk associated with the CFPB’s failure to verify consumer complaints before adding them to the public database, the Department recommends limiting database access to federal and state agencies only, much like the FTC’s analogous database.