Last week, in advance of Director Chopra’s appearances before the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee, the CFPB issued its Spring 2021 Semi-Annual Report to Congress covering the period October 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021.
With former Director Kraninger having resigned on January 20, 2021, the report primarily reflects CFPB activity under her leadership. Except as noted below, neither the report nor former Acting Director Uejio’s introductory message provide new insight into the plans of the “new CFPB.” However, in his first appearances before Congress as CFPB Director, Director Rohit Chopra did share some noteworthy information about his priorities and plans for the Bureau.
The new report indicates that the Bureau had 1,532 employees as of March 31, 2021, representing an increase of 28 employees from the number of employees as of September 30, 2020 (1,504). Given the expected ramp up in CFPB enforcement under Director Chopra’s leadership, an increase in CFPB staffing can also be expected over the coming months. Indeed, it has been clear since Mr. Uejio’s initial days as Acting Director that fair lending enforcement would be a priority of the “new CFPB.” Significantly, the new report indicates that fair lending supervision will also be a priority. It states:
During this reporting period, Supervision began to develop additional fair lending supervision strategic priorities, informed by the Acting Director’s priority to advance equity using all of the tools Congress gave it. As a result of this prioritization process, the Bureau plans to focus additional fair lending supervision efforts on various product lines, especially mortgage origination and small business lending.
Although Director Chopra’s appearances last week before the House and Senate were officially billed as discussions of the semi-annual report, his responses to questions from lawmakers provided information and insights not found in the report, including the following:
- CFPB enforcement activity can be expected to focus on “the largest firms that are engaged in nationwide harm.” In Director Chopra’s view, a focus on large companies “is one of the best ways we can accomplish our mission.”
- Director Chopra expressed significant reservations about the creation of a government-run credit bureau, a concept floated by the Biden Administration.
- The use of payments data by large technology firms will be a major CFPB focus, as reflected in the orders that the CFPB sent last week to six technology platforms offering payment services that directs the companies to provide information to the Bureau.
- The CFPB can be expected to rely primarily on enforcement, rather than rulemaking or written guidance, to define what is an “abusive” act or practice. Director Chopra indicated that he hopes “to create a durable jurisprudence” on the meaning of abusiveness.