At the American Bar Association’s Annual Meeting in Toronto, I attended a two-hour program on August 6 about the CFPB. I was disturbed by two things that occurred at that meeting, which made me question again whether the CFPB is as transparent as it says it is.
First, the CFPB would not permit anyone on its staff to speak at the program. Instead, Nina Simon of the Center for Responsible Lending was given the responsibility of telling the audience what she believes someone from the CFPB would have said if such person had been allowed to speak. Joel Winston, Associate Director, Division of Financial Practices of the FTC, and Buz Gorman, General Counsel of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, spoke about the relationship among the CFPB, FTC. and state banking departments. The staff of the Federal Reserve Board and the other federal banking agencies have always spoken at ABA meetings of this sort. So why then is the CFPB reluctant to allow its senior staff to speak?
Second, in its 32-page progress report issued last month, the CFPB said:
The CFPB and the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Federal Trade Commission signed an MOU to provide for the sharing of information related to the agencies’ fair lending investigations, screening procedures, and investigative techniques.”
Joel Winston of the FTC indicated that the CFPB and FTC have NOT yet signed a MOU. According to Mr. Winston, discussions are ongoing, and a MOU between the CFPB and FTC will be entered into before the statutory deadline of January 21, 2012. Since the web sites of the CFPB, HUD, and the DOJ don’t contain MOUs, I highly doubt that the CFPB has entered into MOUs with HUD or DOJ. For an agency that is charged by Congress for ensuring that banks and other consumer financial services companies don’t engage in deceptive practices, one can only wonder why the agency did not provide the public with accurate information about the MOUs it has entered into.