Five Signs the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is Asleep at the Wheel
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) mission statement claims the agency "helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives."
While the CFPB’s mission statement outlines a number of laudable goals, reports show the Bureau has all but failed in living up to them. Recently the Bureau has been riddled with controversy, yet through it all Director Richard Cordray has remained unresponsive to Congressional probes into the Bureau’s activities. This lack of accountability has led to a number of issues, calling into question the Bureau’s ability to function efficiently. The five most concerning issues at the CFPB are discussed below.
According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the CFPB budget is growing at a rapid and unsustainable pace. The agency’s new office building is currently estimated to cost taxpayers $215 million—that’s $120 million more than initial estimates. The planned facilities will include extravagant amenities such as a glass staircase, concession kiosk and a “water wall” ending in a splash pool. According to John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the cost of the sprawling new facilities is “more per square foot than the Bellagio hotel-casino in Las Vegas.”
2) No Transparency or Accountability
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling said the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which created the CFPB, made the agency “unaccountable to taxpayers and to Congress.” Unlike other government agencies the CFPB is not required to have their budget approved by Congress, although 78% of Americans believe that they should have to do so.
In March, House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations Chairman Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) reintroduced a Consumer and Financial Protection Bureau reform package. The legislation is a group of 5 bills that aim to promote both transparency and accountability at the CFPB by increasing Congressional oversight of the agency.
Despite the agency's "mission" to help and protect American consumers, the agency has been the subject of rampant accusations of discrimination. Representative Duffy explains "of all the federal financial agencies, the CFPB has the worst track record of protecting its own employees against discrimination.” In fact, the per capita number of Equal Employment Opportunity complaints at the CFPB is far higher than at other federal agencies. Specific reports even found CFPB officials went so far as to use derogatory language when referring to divisions with large numbers of minority employees.
4) Bulk Data Collection
The CFPB has recently introduced a program to obtain and monitor the credit card records of over 500 million Americans. The Agency has refused to consult with Congress on the program and will not let Americans opt out. A majority of respondents (55%) believe the CFPB's data collection program is similar to or worse than the controversial NSA monitoring program.
5) Shunning Small Businesses
Ironically, as an agency designed to help the American consumer, the CFPB refuses to include the backbone of the U.S. economy in its discussions. The House Financial Services reports that while trying to attend a Consumer Advisory Board meeting in Jackson Mississippi, Bobby Riggs, a small business owner, was turned away. A CFPB official told Riggs, "We just don't allow anybody from the public into these meetings."
Congress has taken action to curb the CFPB’s questionable actions. In May the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1195, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Advisory Boards Act. This legislation would create a Small Business Advisory Committee to ensure that the CFPB acknowledges and considers the concerns of small businesses. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has threatened to veto this legislation.