States Warn Mulvaney Against Weakening CFPB Investigative Powers

By Evan Weinberger

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s ability to make investigative demands on financial companies is a vital law enforcement tool that shouldn’t be tampered with, a group of 16 Democratic state attorneys general said April 26.

The CFPB under acting Director Mick Mulvaney in January asked for public comments on the bureau’s civil investigative demand (CID) process as part of a broad review of its policies and procedures. Consumer advocates fear that the bureau’s review is part of an effort to weaken the CFPB’s enforcement of financial protection and anti-discrimination laws.

The CFPB’s investigative demand process has come under fire from companies that say the requests for documents and other information are overly broad and difficult to fulfill. But the 16 attorneys general said in their letter that the CFPB’s procedures mirror those of the Federal Trade Commission and didn’t draw much scrutiny when the CFPB first proposed them in 2011 and finalized them in a year later.

The bureau has also shown a willingness to trim information requests when working with companies, and courts have the power to limit CIDs, the letter said.

“As our states’ chief law enforcement officers, we have witnessed the bureau use its investigatory subpoena authority in a manner that minimizes burdens on recipients while still allowing the bureau to protect consumers and promote fair and transparent financial products and services,” the letter said.

The CFPB’s investigative demand letters have been vital in parallel investigations that the CFPB and the states conducted against JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., and other major companies, the attorneys general said.

The attorneys general from California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington signed on to the letter.

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