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By Mike Ferullo
A top official with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) July 9 defended the bureau's broad powers to collect financial marketplace data--including account information in some circumstances--as nothing out of the ordinary for a federal banking supervisor.
“We are seeking data to understand markets, to protect consumers,” acting CFPB Deputy Director Steve Antonakes said at a House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit hearing. “We are not seeking data to monitor individual Americans.”
The CFPB has faced scrutiny over its collection of financial marketplace data, as well as its purchase of data from outside sources (12 PVLR 1158, 7/1/13). Antonakes said the bureau strips any information containing personal identifiers and then performs aggregate analysis on market data, “rather than focusing on any individual.”
But he acknowledged that the bureau does collect personal information when it performs supervisory functions, such as bank exams. The agency's Consumer Response systems also allow consumers who submit complaints about financial services or products to provide voluntarily their account information.
“We are following the same process that has been run for years by other state and federal regulatory agencies,” Antonakes said. “I don't believe we are plowing any new ground here.”
Several Republicans were skeptical of those claims. Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.) noted the CFPB has directed credit card issuers to provide a continuous, monthly summary of cardholder transactions on an account-by-account basis.
“This is a great concern at a time when people worry about their privacy,” McHenry said.
Although pressed by Republicans, Antonakes declined to provide estimates on the number of customer accounts that the CFPB has in its data collections, regardless of whether personal information has been scrubbed.
Further information on the hearing, including links to Antonakes's prepared testimony, a committee memorandum, and an archived webcast of the hearing, is available at http://financialservices.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=341407.
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