Conservative/industry CFPB Taskforce on consumer laws issues request for information

by Jeff Sovern

Earlier this year, the CFPB created a Taskforce to make "recommendations for ways to improve and strengthen consumer financial laws and regulations." The Taskforce is chaired  by George Mason professor Todd Zwyicki and its other members are J. Howard Beales III, Thomas A. Durkin, William C. MacLeod, and Jean Noonan.  As far as I can tell, all the Taskforce members are white Washington, D.C. area folks. They have tended in the past to take conservative positions on consumer law, or represented the industry, or both. I certainly do not mean to suggest that the members of the Taskforce are not qualified to serve on it, nor am I suggesting that any member of the Taskforce will not act in good faith. But a Taskforce that included consumer advocates and more diversity would be more likely to offer a balanced approach to consumer protection and elicit support for its proposals from both sides of the aisle. [Disclosure: I applied to serve on the Taskforce but my application was denied.] 

Another point about the Taskforce: it is to give its final report no later than January of 2021. In other words, if a Democrat wins the presidency this fall, is inaugurated January 20, 2021, immediately fires Director Kraninger (a power the president might or might not have after  SCOTUS decides Seila Law), and names an acting director, the likelihood is that the Taskforce's report would already have been submitted.  

The CFPB's website explains that "The taskforce is in part inspired by an earlier commission established by the Consumer Credit Protection Act (Act) in 1968." But that commission seems very different from the Taskforce in several respects. For one thing, the Commission did not issue its final report until 1972, three years after it was fully constituted. For another, its membership included notable consumer advocates, such as Senator William Proxmire and Representative Leonor K. Sullivan, though it also included industry representatives, such as Ira Millstein and conservatives like Senator John Tower. In other words, the Commission included more ideological diversity and took more time to consider its report. In addition, the Commission was created by an act of Congress, rather than an agency director who has frequently declined to comment on statutes during her testimony before Congress, stating instead that her job is to implement them.

In any event, the Taskforce has now issued a request for information, and you can read it here. It will be interesting to see both what responses it elicits and how the Taskforce treats them.

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