In June 2018, the CFPB announced that it planned to reconstitute three of its advisory groups, the Consumer Advisory Board (CAB), the Community Bank Advisory Council (CBAC), and the Credit Union Advisory Council (CUAC), and disbanded the three groups.  Last week, the CFPB announced the appointment of new members to those groups.

The CFPB announced 9 new CAB members, 7 new CBAC members, and 7 CUAC members.  All new members will serve a one-year term.  Before their disbandment, each of the advisory groups was much larger, with the CAB having as many as 25 members, the CBAC as many as 19 members, and the CUAC as many as 15 members.  New CAB members previously served a three–year term and new members to the CBAC and CUAC previously served a two-year term.

The CFPB’s announcement has met with considerable criticism from consumer advocates and former CAB members who have asserted that as a result of its reduced membership, the CAB lacks sufficient diversity and depth of perspective.  They have also criticized the CFPB not only for reducing the number of consumer advocates on the CAB from 8 to 2 but also for not including any large financial institutions, major credit card providers, or debt collectors on the new CAB.  Consumer advocates observe that although such sectors “probably have other opportunities for access with the CFPB, one of the most valuable aspects of the recently disbanded CAB was that it provided a forum for fruitful and productive conversations among a variety of stakeholders in consumer finance, which often generated valuable insights for the Bureau and the CAB members.”

The CFPB has announced that the three groups will have meetings on September 27.  According to the agenda published by the CFPB, each group will meet separately in the morning and will participate jointly in afternoon sessions on “Credit Invisibles and Alternative Data: Opportunities to improve credit profiles” and “Utilizing technology to prevent and respond to elder financial abuse.”

 

 

 

Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, called on the CFPB this week to end its closed-door meeting policy for its four advisory groups.  Those groups consist of the Community Bank Advisory Council, the Credit Union Advisory Council, the Academic Research Council, and the Consumer Advisory Board. 

The Committee’s press release charges that the groups “conduct virtually all of their business behind closed doors – refusing requests by members of the public and even a member of Congress to attend them.  The meetings are also closed to the press.”  As an example, the press release references the agenda for the CFPB’s Consumer Advisory Board’s last meeting which showed that only two hours – out of two days’ worth of meetings – were open to the public. 

The press release also notes that the CFPB has advised its employees to only include minimal details about agency events on their work calendars.  That recommendation was reported to be in guidance given by the CFPB’s FOIA team and obtained by Cause of Action, a government watchdog group. 

We have previously criticized the CFPB for the lack of transparency surrounding its advisory groups and industry groups have also registered objections.