A statement sent by Acting CFPB Director Uejio to CFPB staff makes clear that he plans to be more than just a caretaker for Rohit Chopra, President Biden’s nominee for CFPB Director, and instead intends to make significant changes at the Bureau even before Mr. Chopra is confirmed by the Senate and sworn in.  Mr. Uejio shared his statement in a blog post published last week.

Mr. Uejio advised staff that his statement was intended to “convey[] a change in direction.”  Most notably, he stated that he plans to take steps to “revers[e] policies of the last administration that weakened enforcement and supervision.”  Those plans include “rescind[ing] public statements conveying a relaxed approach to enforcement of the laws in our care.”

He also announced an immediate change in supervision, stating that it is now “the official policy of the CFPB to supervise lenders with regard to the Military Lending Act.”  Under the leadership of former Acting Director Mulvaney, the CFPB ended routine examinations for MLA compliance.  Mr. Mulvaney did so based on the absence of language in the Dodd-Frank Act or the MLA giving the CFPB authority to conduct MLA examinations.  Under former Director Kraninger’s leadership, the CFPB sent a proposal to Congress that would give it clear authority to conduct such examinations.  (However, even in the absence of such examinations, the CFPB brought several enforcement actions against companies it alleged had been violating the MLA.)

Mr. Uejio identified racial equity as one of his priorities for the CFPB, observing that “as we all know, practices and policies of the financial services industry have both caused and exacerbated racial inequality.”  He designated fair lending enforcement “a top priority” and stated that he will “elevate and expand existing investigations and exams and add new ones to ensure we have a healthy docket intended to address racial equity.”  He also indicated plans for the CFPB to “look more broadly, beyond fair lending, to identify and root out unlawful conduct that disproportionately impacts communities of color and other vulnerable populations.”

In addition to racial equity, Mr. Uejio identified COVID-19 financial relief for consumers as a priority.  He indicated that the CFPB will immediately focus its supervision and enforcement tools “on overseeing the companies responsible for COVID relief.”  Mr. Uejio expressed concern regarding the findings described in the CFPB’s Supervisory Highlights special edition on COVID-19 Prioritized Assessments (PAs) and gave examples of findings that, in his view, demonstrate that “companies are failing to properly administer relief through the crisis.”

To address this concern, Mr. Uejio indicated that the CFPB “will take aggressive action to ensure that regulated companies follow the law and meet their obligations to assist consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic.  He announced that has taken the following actions:

  • CFPB enforcement staff has been directed “to expedite enforcement investigations relating to COVID-19 so that we can take action now to ensure that industry gets the message that violations of law during this time of need will not be tolerated.”
  • CFPB supervision staff has been directed to (1) “always determine the full scope of issues found in its exams, systemically remediate all of those who are harmed, and change policies, procedures, and practices to address the root causes of harms,” and (2) without conducting new follow-up exams, follow up on PAs that did not already take this approach.  (Mr. Uejio advised companies that have not already received instructions from examiners to “expect to receive letters in the mail soon.”)

Tomorrow, February 2, 2021, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET, Ballard’s Consumer Financial Services Group will hold a webinar, “The Times at the CFPB are A-Changing: Perspectives on the CFPB Under Acting Director Uejio and Director Chopra.”  Click here to register.