On December 3, the CFPB’s Ombudsman Office issued its second annual report covering the Office’s activities during fiscal year 2013 (October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2013).  The role of the Ombudsman’s Office is to assist in the resolution of individual and systemic issues that a depository entity, non-depository entity or consumer has with the CFPB.  

One section of the report is devoted to the Ombudsman’s examination of  individual inquiries, which dealt primarily with issues concerning the consumer complaint process.

Of primary significance to industry is the section of the report dealing with the Ombudsman’s review of systemic issues.  In the portion that updates FY 2012 systemic issues, the report  discusses the change in the CFPB’s policy regarding the participation of enforcement attorneys in examinations.  It notes that enforcement attorneys ” will no longer participate in the on-site part of the examination.  At the same time, we understand that [they] will continue to be integrated on examinations through regular meetings with examination staff convened by Supervision headquarters staff. ”

The report indicates that the Ombudsman reviewed three systemic issues in FY 2013: the caller experience with the CFPB contact center, how the CFPB shares information and financial entities’ experiences with the examination process.  These issues involved the following:

  • Caller experience issues involved difficulties experienced by consumers when contacting the CFPB and in corresponding with and obtaining information from the CFPB.
  • CFPB information sharing issues, which were based on feedback from consumers, trade groups and financial entities, involved how the CFPB shares information about its activities, events and services.  The Ombudsman heard “that it is challenging to keep up-to-date with CFPB activities across [the CFPB website.]”  (This comment is consistent with our own experiences with the CFPB’s website.)  Among the Ombudsman’s recommendations is for the CFPB to add a digest of all website updates and a checklist opportunity for users to subscribe to each available CFPB “sign-up” rather than having to search for separate “sign-ups” on different webpages.  To address feedback that it would be helpful for the CFPB to provide more consistent and advanced notice of public events, the Ombudsman has recommended that the CFPB announce events with consistent minimal lead time even if only the city and state are known, provide an events calendar on its website, and add a “sign up” to receive calendar updates.
  • Examination process issues involved how a financial institution can elevate concerns about an examination and what can be expected during the examination lifecycle.  The Ombudsman has recommended that the CFPB share how a financial entity can elevate examination concerns by (1) providing specific information on who composes the examination team through the Regional Director, and (2) supplementing the Information Request template to designate the Examiner–In-Charge as the point of contact to address any concern during the examination lifecycle.  To clarify what may be expected during the exam lifecycle, the Ombudsman has recommended that that the CFPB (1) include citations to the examination manual in written communications to the financial entity, where relevant, (2) in the opening letter, describe the document an entity can expect to receive at the end of the examination process, (3) after the on-site part of an examination ends, provide information to the entity at regular intervals, and (4) locate the appeals bulletin with the examination manual on the CFPB’s website.  The Ombudsman states in the report that it “understands that the CFPB is implementing all of these recent recommendations.”