The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which does not have official authority until the designated transfer date, July 21, 2011, has launched its website at www.consumerfinance.gov.

The home page prominently displays a badge logo, which clearly sends the message that there is a new "cop on the beat."

The website introduces the CFPB via a video that describes the agency’s overall function as being “a single entity that has the authority to make sure that consumer financial markets work for all of us, not just the big guys.” The site seeks suggestions on how the CFPB should function and encourages users to post their suggestions through the website, as well as in video form on the CFPB’s YouTube channel. Within hours of its site going live, the CFPB posted a YouTube video responding to a suggestion made through the website and featuring Richard Cordray, the head of the CFPB’s enforcement arm.

The website contains information about the CFPB’s structure, including an organizational chart, dated January 26, 2011. The chart differs significantly from the one appended to a letter that Professor Elizabeth Warren, head of the CFPB implementation team, sent to Representative Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) on January 31, 2011. On the website, the CFPB enforcement arm is broken into specific product areas, mirroring the structure of the CFPB research arm. In this chart, both the research and enforcement arms will have sections focused on: Fair Lending, Large Bank Supervision, Credit and Prepaid Markets, Mortgage and Home Equity Markets, Installment Lending Markets, Deposit and Payment Markets, and Credit Information Markets.

In comparison, the organizational chart Ms. Warren sent to Representative Neugebauer shows the enforcement arm consisting of only Fair Lending, Large Bank Supervision, Non-Bank Supervision, and Enforcement. At minimum, such disparity shows that there is still great flux in determining how best to execute CFPB’s mission.

The website includes the following statement by Peggy Twohig, formerly with the Federal Trade Commission, who is listed as the Non-Bank Supervision Team Lead. She describes her team’s focus:

Many companies other than banks provide consumer financial products and services. These Bon-Bank companies include mortgage lenders, mortgage servicers, student lenders, payday lenders, credit bureaus, and debt collectors. Non-Bank financial companies can have a huge impact on consumers, but, unlike banks, they have not been subject to regular Federal reviews to make sure they play by the rules. My team is planning a new Federal supervision program to oversee these companies. When banks and Non-Bank companies are subject to similar Federal oversight, consumers across the entire marketplace will be better protected.

Although the CFPB is not yet entertaining complaints from consumers, the website contains a feature which directs consumers to the appropriate federal and/or state agency.

The website has a user-friendly look and is loaded with social media elements. For example, it features a CFPB blog and touts the CFPB’s presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr. However, the pages of the site that collect personally identifiable information are not secure and the pages carrying legal disclosures, such as the privacy policy and the policy for blog comments, are not printable. When pasted into a Word document, the legal disclosures for the site extend to six pages. And yet Ms. Warren continues to call for a disclosure describing how credit cards work in just one page.

Ballard Spahr’s Consumer Financial Services Group is nationally recognized for its guidance in structuring and documenting new consumer financial services products, its experience with the full range of federal and state consumer credit laws throughout the country, and its skill in litigation defense and avoidance (including pioneering work in pre-dispute arbitration programs). For more information, please contact group Chair Alan S. Kaplinsky, 215.864.8544 or kaplinsky@ballardspahr.com; Vice Chair Jeremy T. Rosenblum, 215.864.8505 or rosenblum@ballardspahr.com; John L. Culhane, Jr., 215.864.8535 or culhane@ballardspahr.com; Barbara S. Mishkin, 215.864.8528 or mishkinb@ballardspahr.com; or Mark J. Furletti, 215.864.8138 or furlettim@ballardspahr.com.

 


 

 

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