CFPB Seeks Input on Town Halls, Field Hearings in Agency Review

By Jeff Bater

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is asking for public feedback on its field hearings and other outreach events as part of a broad review of agency operations.

Field hearings and town-hall events have been used in the past by the CFPB to highlight rulemaking efforts in areas such as debt collection and small-dollar lending.

The notice Feb. 21 seeks input on all of the CFPB’s public and private external engagements, including meetings of various advisory board and councils, such as the Consumer Advisory Board and the Community Bank Advisory Council.

‘Feedback Loop’

The CFPB has been undergoing a top-to-bottom review since acting Director Mick Mulvaney was appointed by President Donald Trump in November. In recent weeks, the bureau has asked for public comment on its supervisory examinations, enforcement procedures, civil investigative demands, and administrative adjudications.

Notices on the CFPB’s handling of consumer complaints and its rulemaking processes are expected in the coming weeks.

“I think he’s trying to create a feedback loop with industry,” Ashley Hutto-Schultz, a senior associate at Hogan Lovells, said of Mulvaney’s efforts.

In its latest notice, the CFPB asked for comment “on all aspects of conducting future external engagements.” One of those areas is how the bureau determines the topics, locations, timing, frequency, participants, and other important elements of both public and private events.

“It wouldn’t be a surprise to see these external engagements scaled back, especially in light of the fact he requested a zero-dollar budget,” Hutto-Schultz said, referring to Mulvaney’s recent decision not to seek Federal Reserve funds for the CFPB’s second quarter 2018 operations.

Quyen Truong, a former CFPB enforcement official, said the notice is aimed “at improving the CFPB’s outreach processes rather than to eliminate them.” Some outreach activities, such as the Consumer Advisory Board, are required by law, Truong, now a partner with Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, told Bloomberg Law.

“The CFPB’s modification of current processes likely will address past concerns of the industry that they were placed at a disadvantage as compared to community groups that had greater access to bureau staff,” she said in an e-mail. “Accordingly, there is a potential for the CFPB to establish additional avenues for public input, as well as to modify current processes.”

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