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CFPB five-year strategic plan highlights fair lending enforcement

Posted in Fair Lending

The CFPB has issued a draft strategic plan for 2013 to 2018 and is seeking comments which are due by October 25, 2012.  In the plan, the CFPB identifies four strategic goals and eleven desired outcomes in support of those goals, together with strategies that describe the actions the CFPB will take to accomplish the outcomes and performance measures and indicators it will use to assess its progress in achieving the desired outcomes.  The outcomes and performance measures relating to enforcement are particularly telling, as they suggest that the Bureau will measure its success by the number of enforcement actions it brings, and in particular the number of fair lending cases. That’s right, fair lending enforcement actions are counted separately from everything else. 

The CFPB’s goals are to (1) prevent financial harm to consumers while promoting good practices that benefit them, (2) empower consumers to live better financial lives, (3) inform the public, policy makers and the CFPB’s own policy-making with data driven analysis of consumer finance markets and consumer behavior, and (4) advance the CFPB’s performance by maximizing resources and enhancing input. 

In addition to the adoption of regulations, the CFPB’s desired outcomes in support of its goal of preventing financial harm to consumers and promoting beneficial practices are to supervise institutions to foster compliance with federal consumer financial laws, enforce such laws and “hold violators accountable.” 

To assess its progress in reaching these outcomes, the CFPB  intends to track several enforcement-related performance measures against “specific targets.”  Specifically, for matters “where the Bureau determines enforcement action is warranted,” the CFPB plans to track “the percentage of those matters where an action is filed or settled within two years of the opening of the enforcement investigation.”  Other enforcement-related measures to be used are the percentage of fair lending cases and the percentage of all cases filed by the CFPB “that were successfully resolved through litigation, a settlement, or issuance of a default judgment.” 

The performance indicators the CFPB plans to use for the same purpose include its “supervision activities (examinations, target reviews, or horizontal  reviews) opened during the fiscal year” and its “fair lending supervision activities opened during the fiscal year.”  Just as with enforcement, fair lending supervisory activities are going to be tracked separately.  

The CFPB does not indicate how it plans to establish the “specific targets” against which it would track its  enforcement-related performance measures. But the real news is two-fold. First, the CFPB will be keeping score by counting the number of enforcement actions it brings, and fair lending remains such a high priority for the agency that the Bureau plans to track fair lending cases separately from every other type of case.  Second, like the CFPB’s blog post earlier this year giving “fair notice” of the CFPB’s intention to vigorously assert its fair lending authority and to use the “disparate impact” test to prove discrimination, the strategic plan signals that we can expect fair lending cases to start coming from the CFPB in the near future.