A letter sent today to the CFPB by an attorney for the Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA), a national trade organization for payday lenders, asserts that the CFPB violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) by excluding the public from portions of today’s meeting of the CFPB’s Consumer Advisory Board (CAB).

According to the letter, the CFPB informed a CFSA representative and her professional colleagues that they could only attend what was designated the “public” session of the CAB’s meeting and denied them access to other portions of the meeting, including the portions that related to payday lending.  The letter asserts that under the FACA, a federal advisory committee such as the CAB can only exclude the public from a meeting when information to be discussed involves trade secrets, classified government materials or national security and there has been agency director approval and prior notice in the Federal Register.  It also asserts that the vast majority of the CAB’s business, such as the business conducted at the CAB’s September 27, 2012 meeting, is traditionally conducted in sessions closed to the public. 

The letter demands that within 21 days, the CFPB provide its written assurance that (1) all future CAB proceedings will be open to the public unless they meet a specific FACA exception, and (2) the CFPB has undertaken to amend the CAB’s charter so that non-public proceedings will only be conducted in accordance with the FACA.  The letter advises that, in the absence of a timely response, legal proceedings will be filed to require FACA compliance and enjoin future FACA breaches by the CFPB.  It also notes that the issues raised in the letter apply equally to other CFPB boards and councils such as the CFPB’s Academic Research Council.