On February 6, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Hensarling circulated a memorandum to the House Financial Services Committee Leadership Team describing key revisions to the Financial Choice Act. Last week, he issued in outline form a so-called “Summary of Bill Changes” which identified further revisions to the Choice Act, which he referred to as “Choice 2.0”, some of which address subjects not covered in his February 6 revisions, which he referred to as “Choice 1.0.”
Choice 2.0, which addresses a wide range of issues, includes the following provisions that affect consumer financial services:
- De novo review of agency regulations would be required two years after a regulation’s enactment. This would call on more agency resources. (Last week, we blogged about a former CFPB attorney’s comment that the CFPB’s Regulations Division is severely understaffed.) Under Dodd-Frank, the CFPB is required to conduct a review of a regulation it adopts five years after the regulation’s effective date. Indeed, the CFPB recently announced that it will initiate a five-year review of its regulation dealing with international money remittances.
- The President could remove the FHFA Director at will. The governance of the OCC and the NCUA would be unchanged. The FDIC would be reorganized as a bipartisan commission with all five commissioners appointed by the President. The Comptroller of the Currency and the CFPB Director, who currently serve on the FDIC Board, would not be members of the FDIC commission.
- Financial agencies would be required to “(1) when promulgating a rule with $100 million or more a year in impacts of state/local governments or the private sector to prepare and file a written statement on their process and evaluation and to select the least costly, most cost-effective, or least burdensome alternative, unless otherwise explained; and (2) provide state and local government and private sector with an effective process to provide input on proposals with significant mandates.”
- Financial agencies would be required to “implement policies to (1) minimize duplication between federal and state authorities in bringing enforcement actions; (2) determine when joint investigations and enforcement actions are appropriate; (3) and establish a lead agency for joint investigations and enforcement actions.”
- A financial agency, DOJ, and HUD would be prohibited “from entering into a settlement that provides payments to any person who is not a victim of the alleged wrongdoing.” The prohibition seems to be directed at certain ECOA settlements in the auto finance industry involving disparate impact.
- The Second Circuit’s controversial opinion in Madden v. Midland Funding would be overridden. Madden held that a non-bank transferee of a loan from a national bank loses the ability to charge the same interest rate that the national bank charged on the loan under Section 85 of the National Bank Act. Under Choice 2.0, “a loan that is valid when made as to its maximum rate of interest should remain valid regardless of whether the loan is subsequently sold, assigned or transferred.” While such a statutory amendment would be welcome, I believe that the OCC could more simply and quickly accomplish the same objective by issuing a regulation, as I pointed out in my recent article for American Banker’s BankThink.
- The CFPB, renamed the “Consumer Financial Opportunity Agency” would be governed by a sole Director (Choice 1.0 provided for a bipartisan independent commission with staggered terms) removable at will by the President. Also, the Deputy Director would be appointed by the President instead of by the Director as provided under Dodd-Frank. The Deputy Director would also be removable at will by the President. Under Dodd-Frank, the CFPB Director is only removable by the President for cause.
- The CFPB would be an enforcement agency only. It would be stripped of its supervisory authority.
- The CFPB would only be authorized to enforce the enumerated consumer protection laws. It would have “no UDAAP authority of any kind.” Under Choice 1.0, the CFPB would have retained the authority to enforce the “unfairness,” and “deception” prongs of UDAAP, but not the “abusive” prong.
- The consumer complaint database could not be published. Under Choice 1.0, the database could be published to the extent that complaints were verified.
- The CFPB would be stripped of its authority to monitor markets. Under Choice 1.0, it could continue to engage in market monitoring as long as such monitoring is “separate from enforcement.”
It has been reported that the changes outlined above will be reflected in a new Choice Act bill to be introduced before the end of this month.
While there is a reasonable likelihood that the Choice Act will pass the House, its fate in the Senate is very uncertain. In light of the proposed changes to the CFPB’s structure and powers, one might ask why lawmakers have not proposed to combine the FTC and the CFPB. The proposed cutbacks on the CFPB’s powers would result in the two agencies having largely overlapping enforcement powers for non-banks.
Rep. Hensarling’s proposal for the CFPB to continue to be managed by a sole Director is contrary to the CFPB governance desired by many in the banking industry. In a letter dated April 13, 2017 from Richard Hunt, President and CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association (CBA) to Senator Mike Crapo, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs and Senator Sherrod Brown, Ranking Member of that Committee, the CBA strongly advocated in favor of a bipartisan five-member commission.