On November 1, 2011, Raj Date made a presentation to the House Financial Services Committee, outlining what the CFPB has done in its first 100 days, and previewing some of its future plans. In large part, the presentation served to underscore the CFPB’s accomplishments since July 21, including the development of the “Know Before You Owe” mortgage disclosure form, the similar disclosure relating to student loans, and the publication of the Bureau’s examination manuals. The presentation also made the case – in several places – that the Bureau is limited in its ability to carry out its mandate by the lack of a confirmed Director.
Given the political situation surrounding the confirmation of Richard Cordray as the Director of the CFPB, all of these areas of focus make perfect sense. I found it interesting that disclosure projects (“Know Before You Owe”) played such a prominent role in Mr. Date’s remarks, but these are likely to be less controversial than some of the other matters that the CFPB may address.
Speaking of controversial, though, Mr. Date didn’t shy away from previewing the CFPB’s use of some of its substantive regulatory powers. He made reference to specific groups of consumers (servicemembers, senior citizens and students), and commented that the Bureau will work to address “unfair, deceptive and abusive practices targeted against them.”
The other notable item in Mr. Date’s testimony was his commentary on the CFPB’s forthcoming effort to “streamline and simplify” existing consumer financial services regulations. He noted that the CFPB planned to “initiate a targeted review of … rules in search of ways to update and streamline the regulations,” and will ask for public input on this process. For regulated entities and lawyers who practice in this area, this is an invitation to let the CFPB know about rules that, in Mr. Date’s words, are “outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome.” I don’t think that this signals a desire to make large-scale changes in existing regulations, but it does present an opportunity for the industry to identify especially burdensome rules that don’t actually accomplish any consumer protection goal. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this focus on “streamlining” existing regulations, but I doubt that the net result of the CFPB’s activities will be less regulation.