by Jeff Sovern
As others, including Adam Levitin and David Lazarus have pointed out, the CFPB recently modified its description of itself at the bottom of its press releases. Here is the old version:
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives.
And here is the new version:
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by regularly identifying and addressing outdated, unnecessary or unduly burdensome regulations, by making rules more effective, by consistently enforcing federal consumer financial law and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives.
The motivation for some of the change seems clear. The Trump administration is anti-regulation, and "addressing" regulations is consistent with that. But why the change from "consistently and fairly enforcing [consumer protection] rules" to "consistently enforcing federal consumer financial law" (emphasis added)? What's wrong with fairness? Here's what David Lazarus had to say:
Because the rules that banks and credit card companies had to follow were unfair to begin with? Because consumers shouldn’t expect fairness when dealing with financial firms?
For what it's worth, I wonder if it has something to do with the use of the phrase "fair lending laws" to refer to laws, like the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, that prohibit discrimination in lending. Or maybe it's because the use of the word fair implies some exercise of discretion, as in the laws won't be enforced when that would produce an unfair result. Or maybe the Trump administration believes the CFPP should not have the authority to declare practices unfair. Recall that the House of Representatives has passed the Financial Choice Act, which would eliminate the Bureau's power to outlaw practices as unfair, deceptive, or abusive (the UDAAP powers).
And why the change from "rules" to "federal consumer financial law"? Is it simply a stylistic change? Or is it intended to reflect a substantive shift from making rules to focusing on enforcement of statutes?
What about using a 20th century saying for dealing with this 21st century statement: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.